Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our Christmas Message

Happy Holidays Everyone!

2008 has been a great year for the Shank household, but without too many changes. We still have the same jobs, live in the same house, and have the same number of children. Wow, I think this may be the first time we can say that in a few years.

Zoe is 16 months now and developing quite the personality. She doesn't say many words, but she has learned to communicate. She points at what she wants and screams when she doesn't get it. ( Darin finds my frustration of this at times laughingly familiar to some of his own experiences in marriage - no comment.) Zoe has learned the words "more, no no, shoes, boom, whoa, mama and dada". What else do you really need to say?! She is strutting all over the house, using the fireplace hearths as her own personal dancing stages and going up and down stairs like a champ. Zoe is also torturing her brother by getting in his stuff and laughing as she runs away with it. I'm sure this is just a preview of the many entertaining years we have coming as the battle of the siblings unfolds. Even though Zoe spends a lot of time driving Jackson crazy, they still seem to love each other and play together very well. I am sure that will change also.

Jackson will turn 6 in January and has gone through several male rites of passage at the age of 5. We discovered that his floatie swim suit was too small, so Darin just put him in his trunks and tossed him in the pool. He didn't sink, so life was good. Jackson spent the rest of the summer perfecting his cannon balls and swimming. Jackson and his sister both seem to be fearless when it comes to water…a trait they inherited from their father. Jackson also learned to ride his bike 90 miles an hour without training wheels, so he has been cruising the neighborhood ever since at nerve-racking speeds. He played on his first T-ball team the summer, the Orange Crush…imagine Jackson on a team sporting Illini orange?! Last, but not least, he started Kindergarten this year at Mize Elementary. As expected, he is doing great and loving school. We had our first parent teacher conferences in October. Our son's teacher's first words were "you have quite a character on your hands"…no surprise Jackson loves his teachers and they seem to love him. He just has a lot of energy to waste!

In April, Darin and I took our first vacation since our honeymoon in Italy, seven years ago. We went to Miami and on a cruise and had a blast. We rode horses in the Dominican Republic, hung out at the beaches and shopped in the US and British Virgin Islands and snorkeled and parasailed in the Bahamas. In between all of those things, every day and night we enjoyed lots and lots of Caribbean Rum. The weather was warm, the food to die for and the schedule was incredible (because there wasn't one ) . We did whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it. I never really understood the true meaning of vacation until after I had children. While I love them and missed them dearly, those 9 days made me feel like I was in my 20s again, except for the fact that I require more sleep now. Anyway, we had so much fun that we have decided to take another adult vacation this year and will be heading to Cancun in January!

After being tortured endlessly last year by my inability to play volleyball or softball , or have a beer now and then due to my pregnancy, my sacrifices were rewarded. Both my volleyball and softball team captured gold medals in this year's Corporate Challenge. H&R Block placed 2nd overall which is our highest finish ever. It was an incredible year with a lot of victory celebrations. It was amazing that we did so well considering that we lost 300 associates in February when positions were eliminated. I am now a department of one and have lost of lot of great friends and coworkers in the last year. Now I am losing a lot of contacts at other companies who do the same kind of work as many community relations positions are being eliminated right now. It's been a tough year for a lot of people. Just ask Darin….

Darin has enjoyed his transition to UBS, which came at the perfect time in his career given the greater economic environment. UBS has proven a much more stable place to practice and grow than where he was before. He has also taken on the challenge of achieving his CFP and is getting certified to teach at his graduate Alma Mater - his professors had submitted his name as someone to look at as an adjunct professor.

Darin has also proven this year how youth is escaping him. In September Darin was thrown over the handlebars of his mountain bike while trail riding a few miles from the house. Thankfully a friend had convinced him just weeks before to begin wearing a helmet as he land head first on a dry creek bed of exposed rock. He believes he blacked out just before his left leg slammed into more stone. What all thought was a broken femur due to tremendous swelling turned out to be just massive contusions. The cat scan also proved he does have a brain, but that it wasn't damaged in the crash - the helmet was a total loss. Darin spent about a week in bed on drugs, walked with a limp for about a month, and walks normally now. The only reminder of his accident is a huge hematoma over his left thigh. The doctor tells him he may have that for close to a year.

Otherwise, we excitedly continue to grow forward as a family experiencing the joy of each other. Team Shank we call it; as we try and develop and nurture good habits for the kids. Darin and I are even finishing up a Love & Logic class through Block to help us with that. Part of the Love & Logic formula involves empowering your kids with responsibility and respecting their opinions as part of your family unit. This is working out in all sorts of unique ways. For years I and the neighbors have ribbed Darin about not having Christmas lights on the outside of the house and only received stubborn laughter in return. This year however Jackson asked his Dad why our house wasn't as pretty as everyone elses; and now we have lights!

So all in all we feel very thankful for all that we have been given and are blessed with the warmth of the Holiday Season. We wish that too for you and yours, our family and friends, in the days and weeks to come. May the Spirit of Christmas find you and embrace you with love.

God Bless & Merry Christmas,

The Shank Family


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