This year’s Christmas card did not contain the traditional Year in Review newsletter — sorry all, there are just not enough hours in my day! Instead, our card had the following highlights list on the back:

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For those of you who miss our annual newsletter, here is the “extended version” of this year’s family highlights:

It’s hard to believe another year is almost done! The girls are growing up so fast in this fourth year of homeschooling. Elise is a witty 1st grader, and Audrey’s in 7th grade — already taller than mom! Claire is in 5th grade & loves creative arts. All three girls take worship dance classes, with Audrey continuing ballet, with Celebration Ministry of the Arts.

LucyCollageAdding our new dog Lucy to the family brought new joy & personality to the household! Kenny continues to work for Toray and travel a lot — mostly in the Western USA & Canada, but this month he’s in Japan and China! I have continued to grow my writing business, expanding our family blog NextGen Homeschool into an HSBA-nominated top homeschooling blog, and adding my fitness studio Hot Fitness as a new monthly client for WriteWords Ink since July. In a nutshell, it’s been a busy, productive, and adventurous year!

January: Audrey turns 12! We mourn the loss of husky Pinge. When Audrey turned 12, my first thought was that I can’t believe I’ll have a teenager exactly one year from now. Of course, she’s already taller than me and has even outgrown my shoe size, but it’s the idea of having a teen that… well, I just can’t believe the time has flown so fast! Time caught up with us this month in a more difficult way as well: After almost 13 years as our only family dog, our Siberian husky Pinge took a turn for the worse not long after ringing in the New Year with us. It was really heart-breaking to see her losing her health and know that her time with us was about to end. The girls and I wrote this tribute to her, Twelve Years With Our Furry First Daughter, to help us focus on the blessings and fun we enjoyed the many years she was a part of our family.

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February: Lots of snow in CO! Elise moves up in ski school. After a fairly dry start to our winter, we had more than enough snow in February and did our best to get up to the slopes as much as possible. Elise took ski lessons and quickly moved up to the group that actually skis the bunny runs and rides the chairlift! It was great to have lots of snow in our neighborhood too: The girls have missed it since we moved from Durango to Castle Rock.

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March: Avs hockey with Durango friends. Warmest Easter day! We continued to have some snow in early March, but things really turned around before Easter. Our former Durango neighbors came to visit us while their children participated in the period break show with their youth hockey team at a Colorado Avalanche game. We had a beautiful Easter, and we started seedlings indoors for our upcoming backyard garden.

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April: Snow returns! Trip to Jackson Hole & Grand Tetons. Turns out winter had not released its grip on Colorado, and we had several pretty significant snowstorms pass through in April. We took a roadtrip with Kenny to Jackson Hole, WY, so that he could visit his clients there. It gave us a chance to do some homeschooling on the road, which is something I’d love to do more of this coming year. Again, it snowed quite a bit before we got one perfectly clear, beautiful bluebird day to take in the breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons.

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May: Elise turns 6! Audrey earns Awana Timothy Award. Spring finally took over in May, and we had a very busy month. Most of our homeschool enrichment programs wrapped up, including a dance performance for all three girls with CMA. Audrey completed her last year in the Truth & Training program of AWANA, earning a Timothy Award for completing all the scripture memorization through the last T&T book. We got to take a quick trip to Aspen with Kenny while he visited a client. At the end of the month, we celebrated Elise’s birthday with Kenny’s parents in Kansas, and I took a train to Omaha, NE, to attend my first Teach Them Diligently homeschooling conference. While there, I got to spend time with my sister-in-law Rosanna and her daughter Virginia. I learned so much and was deeply encouraged & inspired in our homeschooling journey: It was definitely one of the highlights of the year for me!

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June: Durango friends visit. Worship Dance & Track camp fun! Our good friends the McKinnis family came to visit us in June, and we had an “official” birthday party for Elise while they were here. Audrey performed in her final ballet with Danza Dance Academy, Beauty & The Beast. We finally got our backyard garden planted, although we kept a cover handy for the expected hailstorms that quickly pass through in early summer. Audrey & Claire also participated in two summer camps: One week in track camp, and another week in Worship Dance camp, where they got to perform at a local nursing home and at the church.

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July: Fireworks with family in Eagle. Sweet Lucy dog adopted! We spent the 4th of July with my sister Carol & her husband Chris in Eagle and Vail, CO. It’s the first time we’ve seen the famous Vail 4th of July parade, and the Eagle fireworks show was pretty impressive! A week later, we met our newest member of the family at a pet adoption event in Denver: Our Lab-Border Collie mix Lucy. The girls couldn’t wait to find a new dog to complete our family, and Lucy was a perfect fit! She’s a great camping dog, loves riding in the car, enjoys playing with the girls, and wants to be a part of everything we do. We are very blessed to have her!

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August: Aspen camping with McKinnises. Watch pro cycling. This one was hard to fit on one line for the Christmas card! Because Kenny & his friend Darren weren’t going to run the Imogene Pass in September, we decided to make our annual family camping trip in August and camped in Aspen for the first time. It was beautiful — and rainy! We still had a blast. We hiked near the Maroon Bells, saw “The Grotto” ice caves, and rode our bikes into town (8 miles) TWICE. Kenny & Darren rode up to the famous Independence Pass, where the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race would start just two days after we were there. Because the race had stages in Beaver Creek & Vail this year, we also got front-row seats to see some of the best cyclists in the world tackle the elevation of Colorado.

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September: Claire turns 11! 4th year homeschooling starts. A lot has changed since we began homeschooling in the fall of 2010. Elise was only three back then, and now I have first, fifth and seventh graders in the house. It’s definitely more challenging working with their different stages of learning, but we’ve found some great curriculum (Trail Guide to Learning) that allows us to work together about half the time. The girls love it, and I’m enjoying the fact that we can do read-alouds, history, art, and science together. We also have a busy enrichment program schedule this year: Worship Dance, co-op art & girls book club, PE Plus, and Presentation Day. Who says homeschoolers don’t get out much?!?

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October: Kenny turns almost-40! Fall getaway with my sisters. Yes, Kenny is finally catching up with me… until I’m back to two years older in December! Now you know how old I am. My sis Carol hosted a sisters’ getaway in Beaver Creek that my sis Cristina was able to fly out for early in the month, when the Aspens were in their full golden glory. It was stunning, to say the least! Then our fall school photo shoot for the girls got a fresh dusting of snow the night before, making for some of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever had taken (thanks to Brooke Kinabrew of Living Reflection Photography)! If you received our print Christmas card, you may recognize some of these smiles. Needless to say, October was the month of many beautiful photos. Thank you for the great backdrop, Colorado!

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November: We’re 19 years married! Thanksgiving in Durango. November snuck up on me faster than I can remember any other time. Maybe I am getting old?!? Before I knew it, we were making plans to visit our dear friends, the McKinnis family, in Durango for Thanksgiving, and I realized that we would be driving there on the day of our 19th wedding anniversary. But that’s just how “we roll” — we go with the flow — and we’ve been loving life together along many, many amazing adventures. It was actually quite awesome to toast a glass of champagne with the couple whom we became friends with just two months after being married and moving to Chicago for grad school. We serve an awesome God! One fun note: We spontaneously decided to cut down our Christmas tree while helping our friends cut down theirs and drove home 6.5 hours with a 15-foot tree tied to our Honda Pilot’s roof. Good times!

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December: Celebrating the Greatest Gift & His blessings! Now you’ve caught up with us. We are here in December, doing our best to avoid the commercial craziness of the American Christmas and turn our eyes to Jesus, the ONE and ONLY gift that can transform our hearts and give us new life — everlasting life! The ONLY gift that brings hope, joy, peace, and love. The reason that we can sing, the reason that we can rejoice for the many blessed heavenly gifts opened throughout this year. Will you join us in giving honor and thanks to the Creator God, the Heavenly Father, who sent His son to be the Savior of this world?

Receive His Gifts This Christmas!
With Our Love, The Gotcher Family

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