A New Chapter

Diary of a Work in Progress • René


My Family

Adventures, memories and story-telling with the Gotcher Family

Family Highlights 2013: The Extended Version

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.



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!


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.



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!


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.

Aspen Camping Collage

Pro Cycling Collage

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?!?


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!



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!

2013-12-01 19.31.55

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



Twelve years with our furry first “daughter”

Last night we said goodbye to our furry first “daughter,” our Siberian husky Pinge (ping-gah). Her name means “falling snow” in the native language of the Siberian Chukchi people, so it seems especially appropriate that snow was falling on her last day with us, creating a peaceful, powdery soft white blanket for her to slowly step through, leaving her goodbye mark all over our backyard.


It was a very difficult, tearful night for all of us. We are going to miss her deeply, for sure. However, our hearts are comforted by the knowledge that we were truly blessed to have spent almost 13 years becoming a family and sharing our lives with our furry girl.


Pinge was our first “baby” — joining our family in 2000 when I was newly pregnant with our eldest daughter Audrey. She prepared us to get through a night sanely with a crying baby and clean up messy “accidents” before we had babies of our own.


She was “the” dog in our girls lives since they were old enough to reach out and touch her soft fur. She patiently let our babies “ride” her and pull on her tail and ears when they were learning to crawl and walk.


She pulled us uphill on long hikes and our little girls downhill through the snow on their sleds. Huskies are helpful that way!

Pinge loved the snow, naturally, and was the perfect dog for our snow-loving family. We took her with us on every mountain escape, and when we moved to Durango, she brought a new level of fun to the work of keeping our driveway and backyard clear from feet and feet of constant snow.



She was our traveling companion on every family hike and camping trip, and long cross-country road trips to places like California, Oklahoma, and Jackson Hole, WY. Although she didn’t love riding in the back of our Tacoma, Subaru or Pilot very much, she never wanted to be left behind. She endured many hours on the road to be with us no matter where we were going.


She let Kenny be the “alpha” in the family and followed his lead, and came to me for sympathy & left-over food because I was her “softy” mama. She even posed for photos just like my girls, flashing her husky “smile” almost on cue.

pingeatsilvertonShe didn’t bark much and wanted to be friends with almost every dog or person she met. Instead, she “talked” to us all the time, using her distinctly unique husky sounds to convey her feelings and wants. She even started “knocking” on the back door with her right paw to be let in or out.

She was always up for adventure and fun, so much so that she took many solo trips outside of our fences — creating frantic family searches (mostly at night, sometimes through rain or snow), only to discover her at the back kitchen door of a local seafood restaurant making friends with the cooks, playing in someone’s open garage, making friends with runners on a nearby trail — we almost never found her alone. I have to admit I didn’t love her sense of adventure very much on those nights, but it always made me aware of how much she meant to us.

She made us feel safe all those days Kenny was traveling away from home for work, sleeping right by the front door. She kept our yards free of pesky mice & squirrels – and even a bear when we lived in Durango! Although she was definitely not a typical guard dog, I always felt secure knowing that she was with us.

She was part of so many important moments in our lives: the homecoming of every daughter that joined our family after her, waiting for Kenny at the finish line of many bike races, sleeping outside our tents on many campsites, entertaining the crowd on birthdays and holidays… she was family.


Pinge ringing in the 2013 New Year with us in her party garb

There are still many tears today, but we thank The Lord with grateful hearts that He chose her to be our family dog and bring such joy and companionship to our family for so many memorable years!


“Are not two  sparrows sold for a  copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” -Matthew 10:29

Christmas News from the Gotcher Family

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Another New Chapter for the Gotcher Family

NEW BEGINNINGS was the theme for our family in 2010! As much as we enjoyed our life in beautiful Durango and the wonderful friendships we made there, we decided that it was time to think about being homeowners again — and in the process, to look at what location would work best for our family in the long term.

After much research, evaluation and prayer, we narrowed our home search to the family-friendly community of Castle Rock, just 30 miles south of downtown Denver and less than an hour’s drive from the Denver airport for Kenny. With access to bike trails, hiking and sweeping front-range mountain views — plus urban conveniences just a short drive away — Castle Rock offers a good blend of what we loved about Durango but missed about living in the city.

So we purchased a house in June, moved in July, and spent the rest of the summer making home updates and getting ready for another new beginning… home educating our three daughters! Kenny & I had both benefited from homeschooling while growing up, and our move to Castle Rock provided a great opportunity to get started. Thanks to the support of a fabulous local homeschool group, we were able to get up and running this Fall — and so far, so good! The girls are loving it, and we are loving spending quality time with them and learning as a family.

We feel very blessed to be in a situation where Kenny & I can continue to work from home, and I have the flexibility to work my Mary Kay business alongside my new focus on educating the girls. We’re making new friends, enjoying a new church, and the girls are keeping up their hobbies: Audrey’s in her 3rd year of ballet; she & Claire both ski & mountain bike, play piano and soccer; and 3-yr-old Elise wants to do everything!

New beginnings aren’t always easy, but after a decade of seeing God shape us through the addition of our children, a business, and many new life experiences, we’re grateful for each new chapter of our journey. Although we’re hoping to be settled down for a while now, we look to 2011 with anticipation and hope for the plans He has yet to unfold. We pray that God also fill your heart with His hope and peace — and your new year with His many blessings!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

With love,


Kenny, Renée, Audrey (10 in Jan), Claire (8), Elise (3) & husky Pinge (10)

A Year in Review: 2008

It’s that time of year again when we have the wonderful opportunity to play “catch up” with family & friends that we don’t get to socialize with regularly. This year’s Christmas newsletter was more of a thoughtful piece on my part, but I know how many of you love the “year in review” format of past newsletters… so here you go!


  • Audrey & Claire complete their first season of Snowburners Ski School & act like they own the mountain now! They also began dance lessons for the first time: Thanks to a gift from Grandpa Ralph, both took ballet this fall.
  • Claire graduated from preschool at St. Columba & officially became an elementary school student this fall. She also learned to ride her bike “two wheels” and races with all the neighborhood kids now.
  • Elise turned 1 in May after starting to walk about a month earlier and hasn’t stopped moving since.
  • We moved AGAIN, but this time just across town to a beautiful place in the McKinnises neighborhood, so now we’re a snowball’s throw away from our best buds.
  • My Mary Kay team and I earned our THIRD company car, and this time Kenny & I decided to take the actual car instead of monthly cash compensation. We received our new black Saturn Vue in November & we love it! I also became a Senior Sales Director this year thanks to my new offspring Sales Director, the lovely Layla Bauder of Portland, OR.
  • Kenny trained for the Iron Horse Classic with biking bud Darren McKinnis, but it was snowed out for the first time ever! Maybe next year… When he wasn’t busy riding his bike, fly fishing, or cooking a fabulous dinner for us, he was on road for Toray — having his busiest travel year ever!


  • We visited my sister Carol in Vail in March on a road trip that included a stop in Denver for my Mary Kay regional conference. We had perfect ski weather while in Vail & despite the odds, we had clear skies on the drive to and from Denver — phew! Kenny & the girls visited the Denver Zoo while I attended the conference, and we did some much-needed shopping at Cherry Creek Mall while we had the chance.
  • Grandpa Ralph (my Dad) gave us the wonderful summer surprise of renting us a van to drive to California in late July. While there, we stayed with my Grandma Marel in her new Long Beach condo and visited with family & friends — including my life-long friends Melodee & Bliss. We spent a day at Disneyland — a must for a family with three girls — as well as enjoying the Long Beach Aquarium, swimming at Grandpa Ralph & family friend Gloria’s houses, and stopping at the Grand Canyon on the way home!
  • This Thanksgiving, we were blessed with the opportunity to drive to Oklahoma in the new Saturn Vue to visit with Kenny’s immediate family. We stayed just outside Tulsa in Sand Springs at Kenny’s sister Rosanna’s brand new home, which became “cousin central” for the weekend. Between Kenny & his two sisters, there are nine granddaughters and one grandson for his parents Dean & Karen, and they went into non-stop play mode: enjoying the trampoline, the huge grassy yard, and the entertainment room! It was also nice to see his sister Elizabeth’s newest addition — six-month old Cadence Grace — while she’s still crawling around like a baby.
  • As previously mentioned, Kenny had a busy year traveling for Toray. Most were to his usual stops of San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C., Salt Lake City, Denver (& the mountain towns of Aspen & Steamboat Springs), Montana, Wyoming, & Wisconsin to visit Land’s End. But he did get to go to New York a couple of times too & work with his home office team, which he doesn’t always get to do.
  • I traveled a bit this year as well for my Mary Kay business, flying out to Portland twice to debut my new Sales Director Layla in May & to work with new Star Recruiter Carie Green in November, and flying to Kalispel, Montana to work with on-target Star Recruiter Svetlana Sheifer & her growing team. It was my first time in Montana and I was really impressed with Kalispel’s natural beauty. I also flew to Dallas for our yearly Seminar, which is such a fabulous event that it makes up for the unbearable heat!
  • On the agenda: Another trip to Cali for Christmas! We look forward to spending the holidays with family & friends this year now that we have a reliable & roomy car to get us there. Let’s hope the snow holds off for a bit longer!


  • Our first house guest of the year was Grandpa Ralph, who flew in to celebrate Elise’s first birthday with us in May. Because he’s such a history buff, we visited the Animas Museum while he was in town and learned a lot of cool facts about Durango’s century-plus history. We also enjoyed swimming in the hotel pool a few times!
  • Kicking off summer vacation with the Gotcher Sr’s & the Eklunds was a blast. Kenny’s parents came to visit just a week after we moved into our new place in Edgemont Ranch, joined soon after by my sister Cristina & her family (husband Jeremy, 2 1/2 year old son Elijah, and new baby girl Ariel, born in April). We had a great time making home-made pizzas with Grandpa Dean, watching the Durango Railroad come into town, and enjoying summer activities up at Durango Mountain Resort such as the Alpine Slide, scenic view chairlift, and bungee bouncing in the Village.
  • My sister Carol & her fiance Chris came to visit us at the end of the summer, and we made our last trip up to DMR for summer fun before the season ended. They will be getting married in Vail next June!
  • My mom (Grandma Yolanda) came to visit us in November & got to spend over a week hanging out with the girls & helping us get organized in our new house.

This year was eventful and memorable! We feel extremely blessed to be living in Durango and enjoying quality time with the girls & the outdoors while we both work from home. We are so thankful for the family who came to visit us this year, as well as those who hosted us on our travels. Keep in touch and know that our door is always open if you’d like to visit us next year! And my New Year’s resolution is to keep up with this blog much better next year so that you can always find out what’s new by stopping in for a virtual visit.

Love & hugs,
Renee & the Gotcher Family

New Year, New Snow!

I’m sure by now you’ve been hearing the “Great 2008” sayings being thrown around, however I have to say that so far, 2008 has indeed been “great” for the Gotchers in Durango! We have had a few big snow storms that have left us in with a heavenly white, billowing sea of snow in our yard that provides endless fun for the girls and serene stress relief for the busy parents!

What was predicted to be a dry “La Nina” winter has proved to be anything but — Durango Mountain Resort is already boasting a deeper base than many of the hotspots in the northern Rockies, including Vail & Aspen! We have been able to enjoy a few epic days on the slopes, making the stress of our move well worth it!

The girls have started the “Snowburners” program, which is a weekly ski school for local kids. So far they are loving it and already riding runs at the top of the mountain!

This post will have to be short and sweet — I hear Elise up again and for the moms out there, you know that computer time is scarce. So here are a few of our favorite photos from this year so far!

— Renée Gotcher

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