This past year has been a great one for Amanda and me as parents. Blending our families has been a fun, exciting, and busy adventure, to say the least, and it all started at the base of Abrams Falls in Cades Cove, where I dropped to one knee for the very first time in my life and proposed to Amanda (that video and story coming soon).
|Me and Amanda at the very spot I dropped to one knee and proposed.|
I’d like to share a few successes and highlights from each of our children as we close out our first full year as a family.
Brandon returned from studying abroad last summer (I wonder if he learned much about her) and then hit the ground running for his third year of college. In addition to his academic successes, he recently had a short story accepted for publication in his college’s literary journal and he’s got a few other stories under consideration in different places. He is a previously published writer, having had a nonfiction piece placed in Writer’s Post Journal at the tender age of 12 and two flash fiction pieces published later in Flashshots.
|Brandon in Poland|
|Brandon at the Peak of Ben Nevis in Scotland|
|American food again…YES!!! (Brandon home after one month in Europe)|
When not in class, Brandon works, and he recently started a new job—after working at a local funeral home since graduating high school—and he’s reigniting his boxing career, which means he stays quite busy. He first started boxing when he was a junior in high school and had two fights before being sidelined by a broken back. Unbeknownst to any of us, he broke his back earlier in his junior year of high school (he recalled the incident, but thought his back had merely cracked) and had been playing football and fighting with the injury. He was forced to take a year off and wear a back brace, but it eventually healed. Here’s a compilation of mitt work from back then when he was secretly training through the pain:
Having fully recovered from his injury, he is bigger, stronger, and hits much harder nowadays. Mothers sacrifice their bodies for their children when they’re born…fathers sacrifice their bodies for them later in life. Here are a series of clips from a present-day workout, where Brandon is using me as a human punching bag:
Grace had a busy summer with band, but she got to go to California with her mom and came with us to Gatlinburg, TN. She loves to surf and climb, so the two vacations offered the best of both worlds for her. Here’s a split-screen picture of her surfing in San Diego:
|Grace in San Diego, CA, Summer of 2014|
It’s a band life, but somebody’s got to live it, right? Grace first began playing trumpet in the fifth grade and she continued playing into high school. She’s wrapping up her sophomore year of high school and it’s been an award-winning year for her band. In addition to competing locally, her marching band traveled as far away as Houston, TX to compete, and they made it to finals there, finishing tenth overall. They definitely left their mark on the Lone Star State and it was good practice for Showcase, which was one month later. Click on the following link to view a video of the performance that put them into finals at Showcase (they finished the year as Reserve Grand Champions):
After marching season, Grace signed up for winter band and, in addition to local competitions, got to travel to Dayton, OH with her band to compete in WGI World Championships. They won “Fan Favorite” and came out second place in the competition, with only 1/10thof a point separating them from first place. While in Ohio, Grace met members of the Cavaliers drum line and she got to hold one of their bass drums. Little did she know, this picture was a sign of things to come:
|Grace at WGI World Championships, Dayton, OH 2015|
|Grace at her Awards Banquet for Band|
After six years of playing the trumpet and never having played a bass drum in her life, Grace was determined to play the drums for her band. She devoted lots of time and energy into learning to play the bass drum and—much to her delight—she earned a spot on the bass drum line and is extremely excited about the upcoming marching season. While her band keeps her very busy, Grace finds time to do some rock climbing here and there, bake cookies and brownies for the family (our only complaint is about our waistlines), and—inspired by Ronda Rousey—she has taken up fighting as a sport.
|Grace at Wolf Rock Cave, near Fort Polk, LA|
Kate has had an exciting summer and, during our first summer vacation together, we traveled to the Smoky Mountains, where she got to see her first black bear—it was wild and roaming free in its natural habitat. She also gutted out a three-mile moderate hike to Grotto Falls, and jumped into a wild river for the first time.
|Kate under Grotto Falls, 2014|
Kate has had a very productive year in elementary school and is looking forward to attending middle school next year. To wrap up the year, she took home an armful of trophies and medals during the end-of-school academic awards ceremony. She earned the Accelerated Math trophy for completing the 4th Grade Math Library, the Honor Roll trophy, the KidBiz Achievement trophy, the Accelerated Reader medal, and the French class award pin. She had so much bling in her arms and around her neck that she looked like a pro boxer who had just unified five championship belts.
|It sounded like the “Kate Show”!|
Kate has nicknamed herself The Math Magician, and it might have had something to do with her recent performance at the school’s talent show. She practiced her performance nearly every night until she memorized every line and perfected every move. When it was go time, she got the crowd laughing and cheering as she pulled a rabbit out of a hat and made a handkerchief change colors. Here’s a link to the video of that performance:
Kate also learned to sew with her grandmother and enjoys reading, hiding out in her room, and candy. She aspires to follow in the footsteps of her family by going into her first year of band to study percussion.
As Amanda and I leave tomorrow morning to celebrate our first wedding anniversary aboard the Carnival Elation, we couldn’t be happier for all the blessings this past year has brought us and we feel so lucky to be able to share our lives with the best children any parents could hope for: Brandon, Grace, and Kate.
Here’s to many more happy years…
Thanks for reading!