Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 News

Wow! I have been writing this family newsletter since May!! Writing is simply not my gift. It always takes me hours to flesh it all out so that you might be informed and perhaps even a little entertained. Those ‘spare’ hours are few and far between these days.

Our exchange student, Yay, finished her Junior year (11th grade) with honors and an award for top grades in math & science at her school. Alas, after nearly 2 years with us, she left in mid-June to embark on the next exciting chapters of her life ... a summer at Stanford Uni in California & then off to a new school in New York for her senior year - within visiting distance! :) Lookout world, here she comes! She’ll always be an honorary member of our family :)

Kaeden & Tyya had an amazing year of growth and learning in Kindergarten last [school] year (Sept-June). Tyya was adored by her teachers and flourished. She loved school! Kaeden made great strides in his academic & learning skills with a few challenges here and there.

Kaeden was tutored through the summer by Matt’s Mom (a former special ed. teacher) to improve his readiness for first grade and it helped tremendously. With the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) we have set for Kaeden and the learning support he is receiving at school, he is making terrific progress this year. He brings home up to an hour of homework almost every night, primarily reading & math, and thankfully, he is really cooperative in getting it done. I am so impressed with his efforts :) Tyya seems to be breezing through first grade so far.

In January Kaeden & Tyya joined a church sports endeavor called Upwards, with Kaeden playing basketball & Tyya cheer leading. They looked so cute in their uniforms and both really enjoyed it.

Since her 5th Birthday last year, Tyya had been asking if she could play violin, inspired by a young woman who plays in our band at church. After nearly 9 months of waiting, Tyya started lessons in March—the young woman from church being her teacher. She quickly discovered “it isn’t as easy as it looks”, but with reluctant persistance, got to the point of playing Twinkle, Twinkle & Mary Had a Little Lamb in the “A” scale, albeit a little squeaky! We took a break for the last month of the Summer and she decided not to pick it up again in the fall, instead opting to join a local swimming club/team.

Inspired by (actually jealous of) his sister, but at his own request, Kaeden tried his hand at playing guitar this year. I found a cute little 30” guitar at a yard sale and  figured I’d invest if he showed the talent. I was a bit skeptical at first, wondering if he would be able to pay attention long enough and press hard enough on the strings with his tiny hands, but he surprised both me and his teacher! He stuck at it for a couple months, picking up a few simple chords, and then we took a break for the last part of the summer. He decided not to pick it up again at the start of the school year (good thing with all the homework he has) but hinted recently that he might be willing.

Despite not playing her violin for nearly 3 months, Tyya asked her teacher if she could play for the class.  She practiced once (and sounded pretty good) and we set a day to do it a couple of weeks ago. Well, word got around and by the end of the day, Tyya had played Twinkle, Twinkle to eight classes! They all encouraged her to keep taking lessons! I was pretty proud of her :)

We enjoyed a six-week visit from my parents this summer. They arrived in time to celebrate Kaeden’s birthday in July & left right after my birthday in August. It was one of the hottest and most humid summers we have endured, so we didn’t get to do half as much as I had hoped (outdoors) because of the heat. The kids really enjoyed the visit with their Nana & Pop. Kaeden was thrilled to help Pop fix one of our cars and many other things. Swimming was probably our favorite weekly activity! We wrapped up their stay with a week’s vacation at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, to explore eighteenth century American history and celebrate my “Big 0” (40th) Birthday  - Although very hot, it was a fun and interesting week! We even saw Santa vacationing in Colonial Williamsburg!!

In celebration of my 40th Birthday in August I got a new, short haircut (another 12” of hair donated to Locks of Love - 5th time!) and some highlights to disguise the many gray strands that are sprouting!

In addition to his day job as a shop foreman for an electrical contractor Matt is a substitute teacher for the apprentice electricians (night classes), filling in when needed. In September, Matt began studies towards his Master Electrician certification, being offered through his employer. His last class is coming up, and with a little further personal study he will be ready to take the exam. This will increase his pay and also his ability to work in certain townships that require permits.

Work & the kids have kept me pretty busy this year ... Let’s see, the kids were involved in: gymnastics, homework, basketball, homework, cheer leading, homework, volunteering, homework, tech club, homework, swimming lessons, violin lessons, homework, violin practice, guitar lessons, homework, guitar practice, dance class, homework, swim team ... that just might explain why Peiffer Family eNews is so desperately overdue (along with housework, family scrapbook albums, and garden maintenance ... to name a few things.)

My work with the communications team at the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church is going great. In addition to publishing the bi-monthly newspaper, I get to dabble in social media, videography & graphic design. The Conference allows me to be completely flexible in my part-time hours which is great when the kids have days off school, or are sick. I am able to put them on the school bus in the morning and be home in time to greet them off the bus in the afternoon. I have Friday’s off and every other week I volunteer at school in the kids’ classrooms.

As you may have heard, we experienced the wettest year on record here, after Hurricane Irene & Tropical Storm Lee blew through the east coast within a week of each other in September, devastating many regions in the eastern half of Pennsylvania. Though only 2 miles from the rising flood waters of the Susquehanna River, we were lucky to remain largely unaffected, with only a 12 hour power-out and some roof leaks in our upstairs bathroom (not caused by the storm.) Many hundreds of families lost their homes; some washed away entirely, others were damaged beyond repair by flood waters, mud, and mould.

Tyya’s latest pursuit is swimming. To join the local club kids only needed to be able to swim 2 laps of the (25 yard) pool. I was able to watch one of the practices in the first couple of weeks, and was utterly amazed to watch Tyya swim 30+ laps within the hour! Her first swim meet was Dec 10th and she came first in her 3 individual events (Under 8 yrs 25 free, 50 free & 25 back). She accidentally swam backstroke during the freestyle relay, but apparently any stroke is legal so they weren’t disqualified!

Matt took a nice 7-point buck on the first day of hunting season a couple of weeks ago, and our freezer gained 65lbs of meat! It doesn’t quite substitute for beef, being totally lean & ‘gamey’ tasting, so I need to come up with some more creative ways to prepare it!

Unfortunately we’ve all been battling some kind of cold symptoms for most of the last 6 weeks or more. I had acute bronchitis which is finally subsiding, although the residual cough will likely last me through the winter. Kaeden & Tyya have shared the coughs & sniffles and now Matt is laid out with flu-like symptoms :(

As Christmas rapidly approaches, I am striving to pull away from the commercial chaos and focus on the One for whom we celebrate this special season. It’s tough in a Santa-centric culture — what do you tell your kids when they ask if Santa fills their stockings or puts his gifts under the tree? We work mighty hard to provide those gifts and Santa gets all the credit! Despite having taken them to get their photo taken with Santa (an annual tradition only because it is free!) I got frustrated one day recently and I told the kids “the truth” about Santa, and with a look of defiance Tyya tearfully responded, “Well I still believe!”  and they really do! I guess even Santa, if you look at his history, is a reflection of the love of Jesus, so I’ll work from that angle in the future. And I’ve decided, if anything, he only puts gifts in stockings! And they aren’t Nintendo DS’s!! Fruit & nuts is how the story goes ... thankfully our neighborhood fire company Santa gives out apples & oranges which supports my story (though his sleigh is a big, red fire truck!!)

I truly hope that you will find this wonder-filled season, and the new year 2012, filled with peace, hope and love. Among my celebrations is that I finally finished this newsletter!

God bless you & yours.

Check out some photos of our family adventures here: Jan-Mar Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec