Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year in Review

It wasn't my intention to "go green" with our Christmas newsletter this year, but I ran out of ink about halfway through printing. And with 4 kids in the house, there is a general lack of [unscribbled] paper in the house. So for everyone that didn't get an actual letter in the mail ... 

So 3 out of 4 are smiling. I would've tried for a few more retakes but immediately following this photo Jäger decided to make a run for it and Jack ended up face first in the mud--right before we needed to leave for church.

Greetings Friends,

All is calm and all is bright in the Tillman household. And since that’s pretty rare before 8pm, I’ve decided to take advantage of this moment and update you all on this past year.

We’ll start with our newest addition. Since Jon declared that 4 children was enough for our little family, we moved on to members of the non-human variety. Jäger (German for “hunter”) joined us in January. He’s a 2-year-old Vizsla/Lab mix rescue dog. After spending the majority of his lifetime in a crate, he’s very appreciative of his new home and family. He’s a sweet and affectionate canine, and a little quirky too. So while he harbors a strange aggression towards moving vehicles and vacuums, he’s kind to the kids and never, ever complains about my cooking.

Our oldest son, Jack, turned 7 in October. He’s having a great year in first grade! And while his mom has a hard time getting him to stay in his seat for homework in the evenings, he’s typically able to finish his math problems faster than her! Jack’s Christmas list can be summed up in two words: Lego and Minecraft. I think we’ve officially reached the age where we have to bribe him to spend time with us—which usually involves laughing (loudly) during family movie nights or curling up next to me while we read The Boxcar Children.

Jude is 5-and-a-half and, according to his teacher, “such a sweet and sensitive little boy.” I’ll admit to being extra-nervous about him starting Kindergarten this year, but he’s surprised us all with his joyous affection for school. He bounds off the bus and immediately starts asking to do homework. And if he doesn’t have any, he’ll make some up. Jack and Jude love playing Legos and Minecraft together, but Jude is also the family artist—often drawing pictures and writing me notes. He’s still our big helper and can typically be found by our side (and asking questions nonstop) whenever we’re cooking dinner or working on a house project.

Our little fashion princess, Julia, turned 4 in October. She started preschool two days a week this fall (that’s right, for 5 hours each week I only have one kid at home!) Lia loves to pick out her “church dress” each Sunday and wear “Mommy’s spray.” (She also likes to get into my makeup when I’m not looking.) Everybody is her “friend”—which is what she calls them all since she can’t keep track of their names. I think her love language is words of affirmation. One time her teacher sent a note home that said “You love to be silly and make people smile and laugh! Your friends and I love that!” Daddy read the note out loud at dinner one night and Lia practically fell out of her chair with pride. She now brings it to me to read to her over and over again. We’re so thankful for her girliness after raising two rough and tumble boys!

The “baby," as she proudly calls herself, turned 2 in July. Jocelyn is our little ball of fire! Surprisingly, she reminds us all of toddler Jack. Joci’s favorite activity is to scale the kitchen cabinets (she literally uses the handles/knobs as a rock climbing wall) to stand on the counter, get into mommy’s cabinet and dump out ALL the spices. Actually, we call her “The Dumper”—my “‘otion,” the kids’ shampoo, a bottle of cleaning spray (all over the TV)—nothing is sacred. She’s also got no qualms about smacking her big older brother when she’s upset or pushing Lia off the couch when she’s in “her seat.” This girl can really throw her weight around!

Speaking of weight, our “baby” has really packed on the pounds this year! In March, Joci underwent open-heart surgery at Johns Hopkins to repair an atrial septal defect (hole in her atrium wall.) The hole was discovered after her pediatrician noticed a heart murmur at her 6-month check-up. The cardiologist team decided to wait until she was older/bigger for surgery. Last February, at her 18-month check-up, they grew concerned that her hard-working heart was affecting her weight gain. And so, a few weeks later, we found ourselves tearfully kissing our baby goodbye in the operating room.

To make a long story short, Jocelyn did phenomenally well! We give God all the glory for our healthy little girl, and are so thankful for all the doctors and nurses we worked with at the hospital. Today, Joci is a chunky and energetic toddler. She’s jumped from the 0th percentile in weight to the 50th! And while it’s a huge relief when she finally falls asleep at night and can’t get into any more trouble, I’m secretly thankful for all “The Dumper’s” little antics as they’re poignant reminders that she is whole and healed!

As for me, I’ve started working from home for Regent University again. With 2.5 kids in school during the day, I was looking for something non-Mommyish to keep me occupied. Of course, working full-time might be a little more than I bargained for! The girls and I also participate in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) twice a month and, as a Steering Team member, I manage the finances for our group. I seem to fall more in love with cooking every year, and my poor family is very patient with me and all my new Pinterest recipes. Evenings typically find me collapsed on the couch, after the kids have gone to bed, trying to stay awake long enough to read a chapter or two of a book. Let’s just say I’ve never slept so well or so hard as I do in this season of life!

Jon has become quite the craftsman this year! He made us a gorgeous farmhouse table with room for our whole family plus guests! He also crafted a stand-up desk for his office and some fabulous cedar window boxes for the house. Jon changed Coast Guard positions this summer which, thankfully, meant no more 12-hour and overnight shifts. It also meant he had to spend an entire month in Florida at training (quite the adventure for the kids and I at home!) Although he works long and stressful hours, we’re thankful that he actually enjoys his trade. Jon will be promoted to Lieutenant Commander this spring after a long wait (selected last fall).

You might say the most exciting news of 2015 hasn’t actually happened yet as we are patiently awaiting military orders for next summer. While our original plan was to try to stay one more year here in MD—a place we’ve come to love these last 4.5 year—we now know for sure that we’ll be moving. Our “wishlist” covers nearly every corner of the nation, but wherever we end up, we know it’s going to be an adventure! We’re hoping to hear something soon followed by official orders in mid-February, so be checking Facebook/Instagram/Janine’s blog for the big news (or you could just wait for next year’s Christmas card to arrive with a new return address).

If you had told me 17 years ago, when I was a teenager sporting braces and wide-legged jeans, that in 2015 I’d be married to that cutie from church, birthing 4 babies in 5 years, and preparing for a potential cross-country move with the whole brood—I’m sure I would have never believed it. But God is faithful. I see it as I look back over the last 17 (or 32) years, I see it as I think over the events of this past year, and I see it as we prepare to celebrate the fulfillment of an over 400-year-old promise—our Savior’s birth. I pray that you, too, experience His faithfulness this Christmas and into the new year!



P.S. I’ll now close what could possibly be the longest Christmas letter you receive this year with a reminder that, in case 1300 hundred words isn’t possibly enough, I sporadically update my blog with lots of pictures and gory parenting details at http://coastiemamalogs.blogspot.com.

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