Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A year in review

I thought posting our Christmas letter would be a good way to finish the year and reflect on the chaos that has been our life.  So here it is:

"Merry Christmas from our family to yours! One word seems to summarize 2013 for our family... “change”. After some prayer and reflection, it seemed that this was the year that we needed to make our move to Beaverton, Oregon (a Portland suburb). We had purchased a home there six years ago as an investment with the thought that “one day” we'd like to move closer to family. And both of us seemed to feel like this was the year to pull the trigger. So Steve applied for some jobs and in May he got a great position with Jacobs Engineering, sealing the deal that the van Riessens were becoming Oregonians. So in July, we packed up our lives and made the move!  Our home is only about 5 minutes away from Steve's sister's family. This was immediately a blessing, as we had some work to do on the house before we could move in. Christie's family welcomed us with open arms and let us stay with them for two weeks while the house was being worked on. Since then, we have been able to see each other regularly. Their daughter is the same age as Molly and their son is the same age as our twins. There is NOTHING better than knowing the cousins will all get to grow up together! It was very hard to leave the amazing friends, family, and church we had in Sacramento. But we are starting to feel at home here in Beaverton. We have met some amazing families right in our neighborhood and Molly's new best friend lives just 4 houses down. Our neighborhood school is absolutely fabulous and I can't believe the level of education Molly is receiving. And Christie helped us find an outstanding preschool for the twins and they are flourishing there. Being closer to British Columbia has also facilitated more visits from my family, and in the first four months of us being here we have seen my cousin Cameron and his wife, my sister Michelle and her husband, my sister Tricia, and THREE visits from my parents! We've also had two different groups of friends already visit from Sacramento. This is the blessing of having a much bigger house ... being about to host people. So if anyone wants to come for a visit to the Portland area, you have a place to land with us! Steve is adjusting to his new engineering position and is working on some very impressive projects, including a wind tunnel for NASA! He's also extremely busy working on home improvement projects since nothing had been done to our house since it was first constructed. He's already built cabinets and shelving, finished tiling projects, replaced about eight light fixtures, and helped to paint almost every room in the house. I've also been busy painting, sewing curtains, and “nesting”. Needless to say, I think we will take the month of December to slow down a bit and take it easy. We are also happy to report that one year after our last Christmas letter, my mother has turned from a breast cancer patient, to a breast cancer survivor (although I prefer the term “victor”)! We are all looking forward to going to Hawaii with my sisters and parents in March to celebrate her recovery!  This Christmas season we have SO much to be thankful for. Every day we sit in our home and are overwhelmed with thankfulness for the blessings God has poured down on us. We are especially thankful for YOU! We wish you a blessed Christmas Season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus!"

And here's some of my favorite photos of the kids over the year...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


We had a WONDERFUL Christmas this year.  We had sick kids before Christmas and sick kids after Christmas, but Christmas was relatively germ-free!  So we started out Christmas Eve at our new church Grace Point Community Church.  Here's the kids all dressed up for service.

Paige fell asleep in my arms in the middle of service and didn't wake until we were walking out of the church.  We came home and had a nice dinner of appetizers, and then spread out our reindeer food on the front lawn so that Santa could easily find our house.  This is an annual tradition thanks to my Aunt Nan!

Santa did indeed find our home, and we found evidence of this the next morning.  He left his presents under the tree in the TV Room because the tree in the Living Room was packed with presents and bikes from Nani and Papa!

The kids opened their gifts from Santa before we had a nice breakfast together.  Then came the present massacre of 2013.  Needless to say they had a blast!

Molly's favorite gift was definitely her telescope & microscope set from Santa.  Paige absolutely loved her doll from us.  And Garrett was all about his Super Hero treasury from Auntie Shelley and Uncle Todd.  Of course, afterwards, we had to get Paige's annual photo in the pile of Christmas wrapping!

After a afternoon of enjoying all the new toys, we finally got out of our pajamas and went over to Aunt Christie's house.  Paige of course had to wear her outfit that matched her new doll.  And Garrett had to bring his Super Hero book!

Christie put together an absolutely AMAZING prime rib dinner.  It was seriously unreal... that girl can cook.  As you can tell, the children approved wholeheartedly.

Then we put a candle on the white-chocolate, peppermint cake that I made and sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.

It was so wonderful to be around family for the holidays.  It was extra special having Scott's mom there to celebrate with all of us.  We are very very blessed!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrating with new friends

Tonight we got to celebrate Christmas with our new friends the Washams.  We decided to keep things low key and we did a dinner of appetizers.  My favorite... the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with cream cheese!  YUM!  It was a really laid back evening and the kids had a blast playing together.  It's such a blessing to have friends that are neighbors and only live a few doors down!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Annual Christmas Tree Photos

Every year I have a tradition of getting photos of the kids in front of the Christmas tree in their matching jammies.  This year I was SO excited to do it in our NEW HOUSE!  I love how they turned out!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Our Redeemer Preschool Recital

This morning we went to Our Redeemer Lutheran church to watch Garrett and Paige in their preschool Christmas recital.  I was particularly excited after hearing that my fabulous twinsies were cast as Mary and Joseph in the nativity reenactment.  However, when we got there, Garrett was NOT into it.  It started once I put their costumes on and he was convinced that his tunic was too itchy (even though he had a shirt on underneath).  The tears started and I decided that it would be better for me to leave and let the teachers deal with it (before I got really angry).  Needless to say, you may be able to notice their different excitement levels while filing into the sanctuary.

Paige was awesome, and practically bounced through the entire performance.  Garrett shut down for the first half, but perked up during the last half.

Here's my favorite moment on video... when the kids were singing "Go Tell It On The Mountain"!

After the show was over and I was able to chat with Garrett about why he was so grumpy, he said it "wasn't my favorite thing to do". When I asked him what that meant he said that his "outfit wasn't cool" and he wanted to be playing Angry Birds.  Sigh... 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Alpenrose Dairy

The nice thing about having family in a new city, is that they know all the fun things to do around town.  We decided to join them for a trek to the Alpenrose Dairy, where they have an old historic village all decked out for Christmas and you can walk around and enjoy it for free!  Dairyville is a replica of a western frontier town. There are dozens of false-front shops filled with treasured antiques, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, a harness store, music shop and other reminders of a remote era. The 600-seat opera house contains a majestic 4,000 pipe organ from the old Portland Civic Auditorium.

One of the highlights was their Storybook Village, which was COMPLETELY decked out with flocked trees.  There were also a variety of farm animals for the kids to enjoy as well!  Another fun holiday adventure!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas traditions

Now that we are living in a new state, we realized that this year was a great time to start some new holiday traditions.  Here in Portland, they put on a drive-through light show at the Portland International Raceway.  It's such a fun concept as they literally have you drive around the racetrack, which is pretty cool.  They had a display for the 12 days of Christmas, and one for Christmas Toyland, and another of general holiday scenes.  And their were several tunnels of light to drive through.  It was pretty fun and the kids loved it!

A family tradition that we continued on was the annual gingerbread house decorating.  At this age it was mostly Mommy and Daddy madly trying to build the houses while the kids ate massive quantities of candy.  I'm sure more candy made it into their stomachs than made it onto the houses.  Needless to say, there was some serious sugar-rush craziness around the house afterwards.

We also made some of our Christmas cookie pops. We made them early to give as gifts to various people, although the kids did get one each.

We are "almost" done with Christmas shopping and "almost" done with Christmas cards.  Hopefully that will give us some breathing room to simply enjoy the blessings of the season.  The other great news is that we FINALLY are committing to a new church family... Grace Point Community Church.  It was hard to figure out where God wanted us to land, but I think we agree that this is the place for our family.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving celebrations

This Thanksgiving I had the honor of hosting and I was SO EXCITED.  It was the first time I have ever hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner, and I couldn't wait.  The only problem... we didn't have a dining room table yet!  So for several weeks I scoured Craigslist for the perfect set.  And I found it... a great extending table that seats up to 12 that came with 8 chairs for only $500.  A steal!

And it was a good thing that it seated twelve, because there was 12 of us for dinner.  We had Christie's family, Scott's mother, and Molly's friend Ava and her mom.  Ava's daddy is a fireman, and had to work Thanksgiving, so we were more than happy to have them join us!  Unfortunately, I have absolutely no photos from the day because I was busy enjoying everyone.  But I can definitely report that we all finished the day absolutely full of food and fun!

The next morning we were blessed with a visit from the Quayle family.  It was so great that they were able to be up this way for Thanksgiving and although it was a quick visit, it was such a great reminder of how much fun we have with their family.

Each kid had a friend stay in their room.  We predicted that Molly and Keilani would be the last to fall asleep, but were surprised by the fact that Paige and Meigan were the last to go down around 10:30 at night.  It was hard to be mad at them because they were having so much fun!

It was a teary goodbye the next day and we were really sad to see them go.  We're hoping that next summer we can organize a joint trip somewhere.  Miss them already!