Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

We can hardly believe that another year has come and gone here at the Ullestad home. Life just keeps racing past us, and Christmas reminds us to slow down and enjoy the blessings that surround us. Although many details of our daily lives remained the same in 2009, there have been some changes in the last 12 months, especially for the Ullestad children.

Anna (6) is in the first grade at Crossroads Park Elementary School. She is thriving in first grade, and it is very clear that she loves to learn. She has spent many nights reading in bed before she falls asleep, and we often hear her “teaching” to her imaginary classroom. This spring, Anna finished 1st place in the 50 meter dash and 3rd place in the 100 meter dash at the Tom Karpan Relays in WDM. She also placed 2nd place in her school’s 100 meter dash for kindergarteners. She is starting to beg Mom to teach her the basics of volleyball and learned that she really can hit a softball if she practices! Anna attended Twirl Camp this summer through the WDM Parks and Recreation Department and even marched 3 miles in the pouring rain in the WDM Independence Day Parade with her instructor and other camp mates as they did their baton twirling routine. She continues to sing in our church’s Cherub Choir and will soon be starting piano lessons if she twists Mom’s arm enough. As you may notice from the picture, Anna has a couple of “windows” in her smile, something she is very proud of, and she loved that she resembled a Jack-o-Lantern this Halloween!

Isaac (5) attends pre-school at Shepherd’s Flock Early Learning Center in WDM four mornings a week. He, too, loves to learn and is going to be more than ready to start kindergarten in the fall. As always, he still likes Superman, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars; however, he has added a few new infatuations this year. He is currently enthralled with Michael Jackson and can even accurately imitate quite a few of his signature moves, including the moon walk! He is very much into sharks and ocean creatures, a further advancement of his liking of Nemo. He can identify more types of fish than either of his parents! Isaac also sings in the Cherub Choir at church and has some pretty fancy moves on his toy electric guitar. He continues to love playing baseball, basketball and football, something he and Dad often can be found doing outside. Our favorite “Isaacism” of the year came when he and Anna were playing a game of carpet ball at church. Anna accused him of cheating, and he responded, “It’s not cheating, Anna. It’s called domination!”.

Evan (2) has had quite a year of changes, too. After a 3 day hospital stay last winter, we realized how fragile little lives can be. His bout with a bad stomach virus didn’t keep him down very long, though. Evan no longer is our baby, both in features and in personality. He still loves to make his sister and brother laugh and is quite silly most of the time. He really is a loving child and will never shy away from a hug request! He has become quite the talker and will often know when the appropriate time for conversation occurs. Evan is the one at the dinner table that always reminds us to talk about our best and worst parts of the day, although his may reflect an event that happened weeks ago! We are happy to announce that Evan is completely toilet-trained, a big accomplishment not only for him, but also for us as parents as, after 6 1/2 years of keeping the diaper businesses flourishing, we will not be needing their products any more! Evan still loves Elmo, but when Mom asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, he responded, “A dinosaur!”.

Erik has had a year filled with several trips for his ministry at Windsor Heights Lutheran. This past summer, he led a 12-day-long trip to Jackson, MS, and New Orleans with close to 25 other youth and adults. Like them, he came back inspired by what he encountered and learned on the journey and continues to encourage the youth to take that knowledge and inspiration further here in the Des Moines metro area. He has also led or chaperoned retreats for junior high and high school students at various places in Iowa and Minnesota. Erik continues to write for Augsburg Fortress Publishing and is thankful for this creative outlet. He is thankful that these jobs allow flexibility for those special moments in life. Earlier this fall, Erik was honored with an award from Thrivent Financial for his excellence in youth ministry and service. Along with this award came his appointment as the Youth Director on the Southwest Polk County Chapter Thrivent Board. He is excited by the possibilities that lie ahead with this volunteer position!

Allison continues her work as the Youth Recreation Coordinator for the West Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department. She feels blessed to have a job that lets her creative juices flow and affords her some flexibility in making sure that she's still available for the important moments in the children’s lives. She is finding that marketing, specifically using digital media, is becoming a niche for her at work and is challenged by finding the newest ways to get information out to the general public. Allison has been leading worship at Windsor Heights Lutheran on a more consistent basis and joined the church’s worship committee this past winter. Although many challenges still arise with this membership, she has realized how important faith can be in the midst of trials. When time allows, Allison still enjoys painting folk art, sewing little crafts, and plays volleyball one night a week. She has become of bit of a collector of antiques, specifically Currier and Ives dishware and crockery. When she get a quick moment, Allison often peruses the aisles of the local flea market to find little hidden treasures!

On the home front, Erik and Allison spent many hours and used lots of elbow grease to re-landscape the back yard this summer. Both they and the kids are quite pleased with the results. When they aren’t mowing or raking leaves, they enjoy as much time as possible playing outside with the kids or relaxing with the neighbors on their back porch. The children’s babysitter remains a big part of their lives, and they have become quite attached to her.

We found it necessary to purchase a new van this spring, as the old “Silver Bullet” started to demonstrate her age. We really are enjoying the many features that our new van has but still have not come up with a name for it yet!

Our church has called a new lead pastor who started this month. Everyone, including Erik, is thrilled with this development and can’t wait to start a new chapter in the church’s history.

Know that in the Christmas season and throughout the year, you are always in our thoughts and prayers. Although we often fail miserably at expressing how important you are to us, we are so blessed to be a part of your lives and to have you in ours. If you ever are in the Des Moines metro area, feel free to stop by. We’d love to have you! We can’t promise that you will leave feeling refreshed or relaxed, but we will help you to all the more appreciate those quieter moments in life!

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,

The gladness of Christmas give you hope,

The warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Erik, Allison, Anna, Isaac and Evan Ullestad

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