Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Here in soggy Newberg Oregon, we’ve been frozen up for about a week. Tonight the table on our deck has 9 inches of snow, by far the most I’ve ever seen here. School’s been closed, things at the office have been mellow…and I asked Elaine tonight if we could order this up the week before Christmas every year.

It’s been peaceful, restful, fun, and so good. This has been a good fall, but it’s been a long push; the slow down has been much appreciated.

So I find myself ready and anticipating the celebration of the birth of the one who changed the cosmos and my life. I’m grateful for family and friends far and wide, and hope you have a very Merry Christmas and the New Year is filled with you being a part of how God is changing the world!

Here’s our Christmas letter, in case I didn’t have your e-mail address.

2008 Koskela Christmas Letter

First Day!

It’s a big day at the Koskela household…

Elaine 1st day

My bride has her first day with students at her new job, as an educational aide at the alternative high school.

Aubrey 1st day

Aubrey starts 1st grade, going all day for the first time.

Hayley 1st day

Hayley starts middle school, switching classes for the first time.

Talli 1st day

And Talli begins the high school journey.

I’m sure I’m biased, but aren’t they beautiful? 🙂

Home, but still vacating

After 42 hours and 35 minutes of driving, and 2,214 miles, we’re back home. But I’m still officially on vacation, and I’m glad for that! We had an amazing time, full of scenic beauty, adventure, and crisis. I’ll probably blog about the crisis first, but for tonight, my goal was simply to break my radio silence.

A funny thing happened on this trip, and it was the reason for my radio silence. We only had internet access a few times, and our older two daughters absolutely hogged the computer: e-mails, chats, Skype…they had people to stay connected with, by gum. By the time I’d get my turn, it was usually 11 at night, and I wasn’t up to blogging our adventures.

So, tonight and tomorrow I’ll be uploading pictures to my Flickr account. Feel free to take a peek, and hopefully I’ll blog some soon. And I’ve got another non-vacation, old style, real blog post brewing in the noggin, too, so stay tuned for further developments.

Too much vacation, not enough internet!

Having too much fun to blog…just a little bit of internet tonight before we leave in the morning for Yellowstone.

Glacier was unbelievable! By the numbers, rapidly:

7 cutthroat trout at Old Man Lake
6 mile hike (one way) to get to Old Man Lake with Talli and Hayley
5 rested Koskelas
4 days camping in Glacier (1 at Fish Creek Campground, and 3 at Two Medicine Lake)
3 species of trout caught
2 happy adults
1 brook trout caught by Aubrey, and 1 rainbow trout by me (16 inches on a grasshopper imitation)

And hikes…and stunning beauty…and lots of wind. Don’t know when I’ll get to write again, but trust me, we’re having a great time. 😉

It's Hayley day!!

This is the “celebrate Hayley” post that a proud dad gets to write. I told you I don’t play favorites with my kids, so I’m sure before too long an Aubrey-centric post will come. But tonight is Hayley!

Each year every fifth grader from every public school in Newberg heads to the high school for a track and field day. Hayley wasn’t too excited about it ahead of time; she didn’t want to come in last. But she decided to run the 100 meters and do the long jump. She asked her mom to coach her on the long jump, out in our sand pit that will become our pool (if it ever decides to get over 60 degrees around here).

At the meet, her first two jumps were in the 9 foot range, and she was leading the pack. Elaine was excited for her (I couldn’t get away from work), but then watched some other girl jump 11 feet, one inch- a huge lead. Hayley took off for her last jump:

Hayley long jump

It looked good, but when she landed, she fell back a little bit:

Hayley long jump land

“Oh well,” Elaine thought. “That was a great jump! If she just could have fallen forward, she might have gotten first.” But when they measured, the tape came up 11 feet, 3 inches…Hayley got the blue ribbon!

Hayley long jump ribbon

But she’s not a one-dimensional girl, let me tell you. Today, we got a call from the school that we might want to show up at the awards assembly; sure enough, Hayley got recognized with a President’s Award for Educational Excellence!

Hayley presidential award

I’m always glad when others realize and recognize Hayley’s accomplishments. What I wish even more is that everyone got the chance to see the Hayley I know: a loyal girl with an impish sense of humor, infinitely creative and experimental, with a mind that has an incredible ability to discover and problem solve.

Since I’ve proclaimed this Hayley day (always present tense, as in, if you’re reading this, it’s Hayley day 🙂 ), you may have something you’ve noticed about Hayley that you’d like to tell her directly!

Adulthood

18 years ago, on an overcast Oregon day, my best friend and I promised to love each other…and asked for Divine assistance to accomplish it. Which means, I guess, that our marriage is officially an adult today. And it feels that way. These last two years, and especially the last few months, have felt like we’ve added maturity and stability to our commitment to each other.

I’ve always told her I look forward to growing old with her; now I’m looking forward to when our marriage is old enough to get the application to AARP, and hopefully even when our marriage is old enough to take social security! That’ll put the two of us at 89 or so. 🙂

I love you, Elaine!

Mission accomplished

1 hour, 44 minutes, and 54 seconds. I did it. 40 laps on my 40th birthday. And, since I ran in lane 4, I actually ran 10.5 miles, so I hit 10 minutes a mile almost exactly. Not nearly as fast as I wanted; but, considering a week ago I didn’t think I could finish, and considering I haven’t run longer than 40 minutes for 5 weeks due to sickness and my leg, I’m giving myself credit. I ran 3 miles farther than I ever have in my life, and I accomplished my goal.

About halfway...

Elaine took this picture about half way through the journey. Since I was running a lap for every year, I was saying to myself things like, “I’m 16 now. It’s 1984”. After Elaine took the picture, she joined me for a mile, and she had perfect timing: we ran together for the first 4 years of our marriage. 🙂

Me and my bride

The last two miles really hurt, and that’s when my time got pathetic. But hey, mission accomplished, now to Portland with my family!

Catching up

So, I feel like I need to give a refund of everything you’ve ever paid as a reader of my blog. Your satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back, you know…but please don’t tell me if you are satisfied when the blog goes silent. I don’t want to know. 🙂

Easter dawned with hope, the beginning of spring vacation. I envisioned one-on-one dates with each daughter and Elaine, family time, a light work week. But we were hit with sickness, Aubrey and me the worst. It was long, nasty, and brutal. So the visions turned into mirages, and the blog went silent. I’ve been relatively healthy for a little over a week, but digging out at work has meant neglect-o-blog-itis.

Much to catch you up on, of course, as I’m sure you are dying to know the minutia of my life. Due to the sickness and much pain in my calf and shins, the training for the big 40th birthday run has taken a hit. I’m still going to try and do it, but my leg may not let me. Nothing like setting a goal to not feel so old, and having the goal painfully remind you how old your body truly is. Not to mention the way it reveals a warped personality that borders on mental illness. Elaine quite reasonably suggested tonight that I could very easily try to do the run in May. I looked at her as if she were insane; I literally could not comprehend NOT trying to achieve this ridiculous goal that no one cares about except me. And that says more about me than I care to delve into at the current time.

Unlike her aging, limping father, Talli is off and running well early in this new track season. Her first meet was last Thursday, and she had a good case of the nerves, as did her good friend and partner in crime, Savannah:

First track meet

As they anxiously awaited the start of the 1500, Talli’s favorite event, one of the girls from the other team said, “Sorry to say this, but we’re going to win. There’s four of us and only two of you.” Because that’s how track works, you know. It’s not about how fast you are, but about the numbers. Talli started to breathe easier, and when Savannah asked their best time, the answer was almost a minute and a half slower than Talli’s best last year.

They started slow. Let me re-phrase that. They started SSSSSSSS——–LLLLLLLLLLLLL———–OOOOOOOOO————-WWWWWWWWWWW. Their first lap came in at 99 seconds, about 10 to 15 seconds slower than Talli usually did last year. There was never a doubt that Talli was going to win the race, and her last two laps she looked so smooth and strong, I knew this year is going to be good for her. She won by a huge margin, with Savannah in second:

1st track meet

I’m really learning to enjoy track, and I especially love the group of friends Talli has. They are great people, and three of the best run with Talli on the 4 x 400 relay. I got this picture of them right before the race, and I love it:

4x400 relay

I suppose nobody except my parents (hi mom! hi dad!) really enjoy reading about me gushing about my kids, but hey, like I said, ask for your money back. It’s my blog, I can do what I want. Talli’s going to get some more blog time here, simply because there’ve been lots of cool things going on for her. And just to be publicly on the record, I love all my kids very much, and this is in no way me picking favorites with my kids. Ok? Got it? Good.

So the track meet was Thursday, and she won the 1500 and the 800 and they came in second in the relay. Then on Friday, she went to a festival with the Advanced Jazz Band from her school. She had a trumpet solo, and the clinician told her she did a great job. This all came in the midst of state testing and extra homework; we’ve not seen her quite so exhausted as she was Friday night.

When I was younger, I didn’t dream much about being a parent. But I suppose when I did, I pictured something like what happened on Sunday afternoon. Talli and Stevie planned a huge water fight at our house. They spent hours planning and calling people and filling up water balloons and buckets and collecting squirt guns, all the while trying to coerce me into joining them. They included all the younger kids in the neighborhood, including Hayley and Aubrey. I ended up running around our back field hucking water balloons with 14 middle school and elementary girls (me and poor Jacob were the only males in sight). We were in teams, but somehow my team turned into a bunch of Benedict Arnold traitors, and every single person on that field doused me at some point.

I have to say, it’s the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. It’s the kind of dad I wish I could be more often, laughing and teasing and getting ganged up on. I like knowing my kids’ friends. I thanked Talli for giving me a dad moment I’ve dreamed about for a long time. I just never dreamed that I’d be this tired and sore…