Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Letter

2012 has been a year like no other before.We have had many new experiences. Some exciting and wonderful and some not so happy ones. Overall it has been a pretty good year. 

As a family we have made a lot of changes this year. We decided as a family this fall that we could no longer participate in our religion. It was a very personal and emotional long fought decision, but it has really been a good thing for our family. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions to get to something better. We also had a dog named Sam. He was an English pointer/Dalmatian mix. He was a great dog and we loved him a lot but was simply too big for us and we had to let him go to a different family. 

Probably the biggest thing that we, as a family did this year was choose to be a host family for a foreign exchange program. We were volunteered and suggested as a good family for this and chose to give it a try. Our first experience for just a few weeks in the summer was a young girl from France. This was not a great experience and just about caused us to not continue, but we did and we are so glad because we got Anna. Anna is from Germany and is part of our family until June of 2013. She arrived in August and is here for school. She has been a ray of sunshine for our family.

This year it has really become apparent that our family is growing up and that we may not have many more opportunities to do things altogether. This is a big deal for us, so things have been planned more lately than ever before. We didn't all get to go to everything, but we do our best. 

In July, Dan took Kyler, Aubree, and Jake to Arches. Megan had to work and I can't do the hiking, so we stayed home and had some girl time while they went. They had a good time and there are great pics on this blog on a previous post. I encourage you to take a look. 

Dan was asked what he wanted for his birthday this year and his answer was that he wanted his feet in the Pacific Ocean. This became another opportunity for a family vacation. Also, it was an opportunity to let Anna see more of America. She wanted to see Hollywood and the beach. We somehow made a way for us to go. Over 5 days in October, directly over Dan's birthday, we spent time in Mesquite, played on the beach (Malibu and Santa Monica), saw Hollywood and the observatory,  and spent a day in Las Vegas. It was a great trip and we are so glad we went. You can also see highlights from that trip on a previous post on this blog. 

Dan- continues to work for the State of Utah. He works hard to make sure parents take care of their children. Dan also works a second job for Vivnt, where he works in Account Creation. This is a department where they make sure everything is installed as it is supposed to be as per agreements and to the clients liking. For a second job it is a very good place for him. He continues to learn and improve on his photography skills. The picture above is at the state capitol and was taken in November of this year. He certainly has an artists eye and is very good at what he does. 

On June 11th of this year, Dan had gastric bypass surgery. He has struggled for a very long time to lose weight. Our insurance coverage changed a little over the past couple of years and gave him the opportunity to be part of a pilot program. This meant the insurance covered this surgery. He had to meet certain milestones and things to get there and there was a time that we had all but given up, but it finally happened and currently, 6 months after surgery he has lost around 90 pounds. He looks great and is feeling so much better. It is very nice being able to wrap our arms around him. 

Christy- continues to struggle with health issues. It is thought that she has MS but as of yet there is no diagnosis. They say it sometimes take many years to do this. She has her good and bad days but this is not keeping her down. Through no choice of her own she became a stay at home mom 6 years ago and is learning every day new ways to be a wife and mother to 5 kids. All teenagers (except Jake who is almost 12 and may as well be a teenager) She spends much of her time running kids places and trying to keep the house organized. She will be turning 40 next week and can't believe it. 

Kyler 18 - is learning how to be an adult. We elected to withdraw him from school in March of this year. He simply had too much to do to make it to graduation so he took a GED instead and worked. He passed his GED with a 3.2 GPA and is now enrolled and registered at UVU for the Spring semester and will be starting in January. He is going into Diesel Mechanics Technology. He loves to fix cars in any form and this should be a good area for him to make a living after school. He continues to be a good young man who loves to help people. We are very proud of his accomplishments and the goals he has set for his future. 

Megan 17- is a junior at Timpanogos high school. She recently got her drivers license and has been enjoying taking her sisters and brothers Christmas shopping and running errands. She is again part of the yearbook staff and working to meet deadlines. Megan is a wonderful young woman is striving for greatness. She is a big help to her mother and we are proud of her. 

Anna 16 - is our "German Daughter". Anna has joined our family this year. She also attends Timpanogos high school and works with Megan and others on the yearbook staff. Anna is very interested in photography (makes Dan very happy) and loves to take pictures behind and in front of the camera. Anna is the only child in her family and  is enjoying (we hope) having so many siblings. We have had the privilege of getting to know her parents and grandparents a little throughout this experience.   We are so happy to have her as part of our family for a time and will hopefully be able to continue on with her for years to come after she returns home to Germany. We get to meet her parents in June. We are all very excited. 

Aubree 15(on the 15th)- is a freshman at Orem Jr. High. She is part of the Bella Voce choir at school. (Thus the blue dress in the picture above). She has a beautiful signing voice and is enjoying singing in the choir. She is working toward getting her driving permit soon. Aubree is a very tenderhearted young woman. She loves her friends and family fiercely and is trying to find her way. She succeeds at pretty much whatever she puts her mind to and we are very proud of her. 

Jake 11- is in the 6th grade at Aspen Elementary. He eats, drinks, and sleeps football. He again played for the UVFL on the Timpanogos team. He plays the center position and is learning more and more every season. He is a leader on his team and in life. He is also very tenderhearted and would help anyone. Not sure what it is, but he has some sort of special mission in life. He seems to be a peace maker. We are proud of the young man he is becoming. 

We have 2 cats named Tazzy and Speedy. They are joys in our lives. They are always giving love and snuggles and definitely entertainment. Speedy lives up to her name and keeps us laughing a lot. 

We hope that this Christmas find all of you, our family and friends, happy and well. We want you to know how much you all mean to us. We send wishes of a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013. 

We are happy to have had the experiences we have over this past year. Even the not so great ones. It has helped us grow as a family. We look forward to 2013 and what it might bring. 

~The Hansens

Friday, December 7, 2012

Woman, I can hardly express...

I read a friend's post on Facebook this morning that made me think about the many women in my life.  I have very few male friends, but many women friends.  I am not sure why that is, but I am very thankful for the women that are part of my earthly experience.   

The first person that I am thankful for is my long suffering spouse and companion.  She turns forty next week and we have been married for twenty-three years.  She has been with me through good times and bad.  She knows and understands me and still sticks with me even though I am usually a pain to be around.  She allows me my relationships with the many other women in my story with trust and understanding.  She struggles through her constant pain to raise her family and is an example of perseverance and strength. 

My daughters amaze me.  They are still becoming women are going through the struggles of learning who they are and their place in the universe, but they are loving and non-judgmental, almost to a fault, and provide me with constant joy.   They are remarkable as they go through the trials of youth and handle themselves so well and are examples to me of their unconditional love.

Our German daughter has been with us for about four months now and I am surprised everyday when I arrive home and she is still there and has not run away kicking and screaming.  She has been a wonderful addition to our family and gives us new perspective on the world and on our family.  She is a teenager and has the issues that every teenager has, and we she has brought happiness into our lives and I will be heavyhearted when she returns to her home. 

My mother has been through a lot in her journey.  She has constantly struggled financially and has had to support her family by working even through the great pain and suffering her failing body dispensed.  She has always been faithful and giving.   

My mother-in-law does not understand me, but loves me anyway.  Not sure why she does, but I accept it for what it is.   

My “work wife” has been through a lot in her life and we talk (or text or IM) just about everyday.  She just listens to my ramblings and I listen to her and we make a good friendship. 

Christy’s sisters have been a major influence since I started dating her.  They are so different, and yet they compliment each other in ways that even they do not understand.  They are both very giving and are both fiercely loyal to their families.  I feel totally comfortable with them.  Christy’s sister-in-law has been my sarcastic sounding board for years.  She is great to have a conversation with and I find myself laughing every time we get together.  Christy’s younger brother is married to a remarkable woman that fits into the family well and works hard pursuing her career and raising a family.

My brother’s wife and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things, mostly political and social issues, but we do know how important family is and we put our differences aside and enjoy each others company when we get together.  She struggles with acceptance from her own family, and we try to make sure that she knows she is accepted and loved by our family despite the fact that she is a conservative.   My sister has probably been the greatest influence on me from my family.  I learned from her that regardless of how or where you were brought up, you can still make the sometimes difficult choice to be yourself.  Others will judge and cut you from their lives, but the ones who really love you will stick with you and love you for who you are.   My sister’s wife is definitely outside my comfort zone.   She is the only lesbian Jew I know (with the exception my sister) and is very blunt and opinionated.  I am so glad I get to stretch my comfort zone and have them in my family.

I have been doing photography as a hobby for a couple of years now and I love to shoot people.  I have several photography groups that I belong to and they meet together often, and I go whenever I can get time available.  I have been able to meet some really remarkable people through these groups and have been able to form some fabulous friendships.  I had a model once tell me that she never felt pretty, but during our photo session, she felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.  What a great compliment.  I have enjoyed shooting many different women of all different looks, ages and backgrounds.  I wish that I had more time and money to hone my skills as a photographer, but for now, I just like to get out and shoot for love.

There are so many more influential women that I just do not have time to mention here.  Both my bosses are women, and most of my co-workers.  I have aunts and cousins, nieces and other friends that have been in my life as far back as I can remember.   I feel greatly blessed to have all of these wonderful women to influence me and to keep me grounded, to show me that love really can rule the world, even if it’s just your own little world.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Annual Thanksgiving Gratitude Post

I always feel a little weird for posting this sort of post only on or around Thanksgiving every year, but also feel like it's important that everyone knows (and I remember) that I really am very thankful for my life and those in it. So with that said, here goes...

First off, I cannot adequately verbalize how grateful I am to Dan. How thankful I am for finding him, especially when I did. I have had the joy of being with the love of my life since I was 15. He is amazing and I can't express enough how grateful I am for him. He works so hard for us and our kids. There is no way I could ever thank him enough, or thank God enough for sending him to me and giving me the joy of living my life with him. 

I am grateful to have a home. It isn't spectacular or pristine,  but it is enough for us and a safe comfortable place we can be a family. 

I am grateful for my kids, permanent and temporary. It isn't always easy and we are at this point living in teenage world, but I love them and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a mother. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to have Anna in our family for some time. It is a special experience to have the privilege of being a temporary mother to her, to get to know her and learn of her personality and get to know her family a little and their traditions. I'm also grateful that I can tease and joke with her grandmother and get to know her a little better as well. I am excited to meet her parents in the summer when they come to get Anna. 

I am grateful for my cats, Tazzy and Speedy. They are wonderful pets who love and care for me and for all of us. I really miss Sam, but I am convinced he is with a great family and in a place where he can run and play. I still miss Buddy sometimes, but I am grateful for the opportunity I had to enjoy the time I had with them and for the snuggles and entertainment that the cats still give. 

I am grateful that there is good education nearby that makes it so Kyler has the opportunity to go to college and hopefully get a good job doing something he enjoys and that will sustain him throughout his life.  

I am very grateful for family, extended and more. Family doesn't always mean blood and I have a large one of all kinds. This is a sustaining factor of my life. 

I would love to say I am grateful for my health, but that wouldn't be the truth, so what I will say is that I am grateful that I am still alive and able to do many things. There are many days that I can't do the things I would like or need to do, and sometimes I don't deal with things the way that would probably be best, but I have a husband who loves me through it and family and friends for support. This is literally a life sustaining factor. 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope that everyone has a wonderful day, filled with family and gratitude and that the next year is filled with wonderful things. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

California Dreaming Part 2

Day 3 we decided to do the tourist thing.   We ate breakfast at McDonalds and headed off to Hollywood.  We started on the Hollywood walk of fame and went to Mann’s Chinese Theatre where we checked out the hand and footprints of the stars.   We hit the souvenir shops and picked up a few item before going back to the Griffith Park Observatory.  We got some great shots of the family with the Hollywood sign in the background.  We started south again, and stopped at the Red Robin (yum) for lunch where the Highway Patrol was doing a fundraiser for Special Olympics. We went back to the hotel, changed into swimwear and drove down Malibu Canyon and along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Monica Pier.  We rode the Ferris wheel, had cotton candy and got our pictures taken in the photo booth.  The kids won various stuffed animals that through their various puppeteers and the annoying voices they created,  almost got left among the debris on the side of the freeway.   We stayed and played in the ocean until sunset, fulfilling my birthday wish.  We finished the day by driving through McDonalds on the way back to the hotel.   We sat in the hot tub and played in the pool while doing some laundry before retiring to our rooms on Saturday night.  Sunday morning we loaded up the Tahoe for the journey to Las Vegas.  We checked into the Excalibur, went to the pool, and walked around the various hotels for a while.  Jake and Kyler rode the roller coaster at the New York, New York and we had dinner at a fake deli there.   We did not manage to win at Keno at the Excalibur, but we tried really hard.  We woke on Sunday morning, went to the M&M store and the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and started home.  On the way home we passed a wreck that we later found out was a Corvette that the driver drove off a cliff and they found meth in the car.   We arrived home after dark on Monday night and got the car unloaded fairly quickly.

This was a great birthday for me.  Kyler bought me a new tv before we left, and everyone chipped in to make the trip possible.  There were little spats here and there, but everyone got along and we had a great memorable family road trip.   Sure am glad to be home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

California Dreaming 2012 Part 1

We took a little trip this month.  Christy asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told her that I wanted my feet in the ocean on October 13th, and she made it happen.  We had to beg, borrow and steal, and the kids even chipped in a little, but on October 11th, after I went to my doctor in Salt Lake, we all piled in the Tahoe and headed south.  The weather was decent as we left Orem, but quickly turned dreadful.  Traveling through the Virgin River Gorge was a bit precarious as the clouds decided to open up and let drench the earth.  Unfortunately, the road was part of the earth and driving was a bit dicey.  We arrived in Mesquite to a drizzle and got our bags into the hotel room.  We could not go swimming, so we decided to go bowling.  There was a bowling league there that night and they told us there would be no open lanes until 8:45, so we hit the arcade and played there for about an hour.  Christy and I decided to pass on the bowling as there is no IHC office in Mesquite.  Anna hurt herself when she accidentally crossed the line onto the lane and slipped on the slick floor.  I decided to try to knock a few pins down and made it ok, but my knee has not yet recovered.  While bowling, Christy decided to try her hand at Keno, which pay off in the form of $135 which paid for our hotel and bowling.  The next morning Jake paid for breakfast and we again headed south.  The GPS told us where to turn and we ignored it because we thought it was wrong.  The resulting backtrack cost us about 30 minutes of drive time, and would be the first of many arguments that we would have with the GPS on this trip.  We arrived in Calabasas in the early afternoon and after unloading the Tahoe, we headed down to Malibu Beach.  There was some construction at the state beach, so we had to walk a short distance to the beach, but it was worth the walk because it was beautiful and there were very few people there.  I ran on the beach for the first time in years.  We took some pictures and played in the surf.  It was a great time.  Anna bought us dinner and we took Christy back to the hotel because she was not feeling well.  The rest of us headed back to L. A. and up to the Griffith observatory.  This was the second time that we had GPS issues and it took us on and off the same freeway several  times and it took us well over a hour to get there. There was a concert at the Greek Theater(near the Observatory) and we almost turned back, but Anna made us go on and we made it there safely.  We all got to see Neptune through the most looked though telescope in the world and we made it back to the hotel fairly quickly without the GPS.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Life Changing Decisions

We have been struggling to make some decisions for a very long time. We want to make the best decisions for our children and for ourselves. We are a family and love and care for each other. Having a family of 7 is not always easy, but we wouldn't change it. It has especially been something we have been very much aware of lately since we have some one else's child for some time and want to be sure that she has a happy and rewarding experience with us. It is not something we could probably ever do, trusting some one else with our children, so we are honored that the Bahss family has given us this opportunity and we take everything we do very seriously as we LOVE Anna. That being said, there are many changes going on in our home at this time and we feel we should share them with everyone. Many of these decisions have been very hard to make and many tears have been shed and days spent in worry trying to decide what is best for our family. Please remember this has never been taken lightly as we consider all of our decisions important because they affect our kids and family and many others. This is what we feel is best for us at this time. ''

For the past several years we have not felt that we were in agreement with many of the teachings and actions regarding our church. We believe in the core teachings of the gospel and that it is, in its true state, the truth. We don't feel we can be a part of it at this time. There is simply too much happening that we feel is in contradiction to the teachings of the gospel . We have chosen to leave it at this time. We would hope that those of you that know and love us will know that this has been a very hard decision. Please do not ask us to participate in any activities pertaining to church and please do not ask us to do things in regards to callings, etc. Love our visiting teachers, but no longer want them. We haven't had a home teacher for several months so I don't think that will be a problem. We are no longer wearing garments. We respect the temple and it's meaning and don't feel like it would be proper to wear them with the feelings we have at this time. Basically, we are removing ourselves from this church for now. No idea what may happen in the future. Our kids will be allowed to choose if they want to continue attending seminary with no pressure from us and since they have made it clear that they want nothing to do with attending church, this is one less thing. Please understand that this has been a VERY hard decision but we feel the best one at this time. 

Dan is actively pursuing employment out of state. There is one job that looks quite promising but we really don't know what will happen so we just wait. We feel that it is best at this time for our kids to not be in what seems to be a toxic situation here and that it is good for them to see that there are good people and good things outside of here. They have felt very shunned as have we for a long time here and feel it may be best for all of us to start fresh somewhere else. We may or may not leave, but this is a possibility at this time. We have to think of ourselves and our well being and the well being of our children. 

We are sorry for what we know will come as a shock and make many of you feel bad. Please remember we love all of our friends and family. Just need to take care of ours right now. 

~Dan and Christy 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Arches, Goblin Valley

I am writing this just for a record of what we did last weekend.  I have a hard time remembering anything, and an account with some great pictures helps.  On Friday, Jake, Sam(the dog) and I went to the Grotto in Payson Canyon, we let the dog run and got some good shots.  Sam loved it, he does not get off the leash very often and he even got to chase some cows. 

Saturday Rick and LoReen took us out on their boat.  It has been years since we have done this, we used to go all the time.  We really appreciate them taking the time to take us out on the lake.  We slathered on sunscreen, grabbed some water, a few snacks and the camera, and headed off to the lake.  Unfortunately, Megan had to work and could not go.  Kyler got up on the wakeboard, Jake and Aubree tried, but did not quite make it.  I got bounced around on the tube, and so did everyone else.  We had a lot of fun and all came home burnt.  

Sunday morning Kyler, Aubree, Jake and myself headed out for Moab.  I have been to Moab before, with the scouts on a Colorado river trip, but none of the kids have ever been.  We drove down Sunday morning, leaving early after Christy made us breakfast.  We got to the campground at 10:00 and checked in to make sure that we had a place to lay our heads that night.  The campground was nice – had some tepees and an old church there.  We did not set up the tent because we did not want it to get blown away, we just got back in the car and headed to the park.  After paying our entrance fee, we went to the visitors center to check out the area and plan our day.  photo.JPG photo.JPG
We decided to start in the windows area of the park, and we headed off.  When we got to the first stop, I was very disappointed.  There was no parking, and there were tour buses everywhere.  I parked in an illegal space, slathered us all in sunscreen, grabbed the camera and some water and started up to the arches.  The first few times we came up on tourists, we tried to stay out of the way of those trying to shoot a picture, but we decided that was impossible due to the sheer number of cameras, so we just decided to head up to the arches and they would just have to shoot around us.  I am wondering how many of them will get home and wonder who the big guy is in the fluorescent green Vivint shirt is.   We stopped at the first arch, took some pictures of our own, had some people request that we take their pictures, and then headed off to the second arch. There were just a few people at the second arch, because the trail ended before the arch and most people did not walk down to it.  We got some great shots of the kids and that arch.  I was glad that Christy was not with me at that point as Jake kept climbing up the rocks and then finding interesting ways to get down.  We walked to the third arch (Turret Arch) and dodged tourists to get some shots in there.  

We were going to walk over to the double arch, but there were just too many people.  We decided that it was hot and that we wanted to go back to the pool at the campground to cool off.  We stopped in Moab and got some ice cream, gas and more sunscreen.  We got to the campground and someone was in our spot, so they moved us to another spot.  We ate lunch, got changed and got in the pool.  This pool is just a little smaller than the pools you can buy at Wal-Mart for your back yard.  It is an in-ground pool, but it is only four feet deep, about 10 feet long and six feet wide.  It was cool though.  Just what we were looking for at that time of day.  
photo.JPGWe played there for a while and then went back to Arches National Park.  We again stopped at the visitors center and this time, I let the kids get a few souvenirs.   We drove to the parking lot at the trail head to the Delicate Arch, slathered on sunscreen, grabbed some water, some snacks and the camera, and off we went.  Kyler and Jake wore sports shorts with no pockets, and I made the mistake of wearing cargo shorts.  My pockets were full of snacks and water, and I was carrying the backpack with my camera, tripod and more water and snacks.  There was a younger girl in the car next to us that was wearing some bright orange shorts.  She started out at the same time we did, and I would gauge how slow I was going by how far ahead of us she was on the trail.  I was slow-going, over hills and rock and around a cliff, but we finally made it.  
photo.JPG photo.JPGThe arch is really cool.  Not like I imagined it though.  There are drop offs all around, and you can’t approach it from the front side, you have to walk around the rock to get to it.  We took a lot of pictures and just spent time hanging out at the arch. 
 This is a major accomplishment for me.  I had knee surgery three weeks ago and gastric bypass surgery the week before that.  I had cortisone injections in both my knee and my foot days before leaving on the trip.  I am so glad that that we were able to go.  This trip had been planned for the exchange student to go on, but she left a few days before, and we decided to go anyway.  So glad that we did that.  After hanging out at the arch, we headed back down the mountain and back to the campground.  Kyler and I started the charcoal and Jake and Aubree went back to the pool.  We had prepared our tin-foil dinners that morning using vegetables out of the garden and some other stuff, so I put them on the grill and hung out and watched them cook.  There was a group of rowdy boys at the pool so I waited to go.  The dinners turned out perfect.  They were done, but not overcooked.   We ate and the boys left the pool, so Jake and I went back to the pool and Kyler and Aubree showered.  I had a hard time sleeping because I always have a hard time sleeping at camp, so as soon as the sun came up, I showered and took a few pictures of the sunrise.  The thermometer said it was 80 degrees as the sun was coming up.  
photo.JPG photo.JPG

None of us slept in our sleeping bags, we all slept on top of them.   We got everything packed up and headed to Goblin Valley.  We had originally planned to hike some slot canyons in the area, but the heat had tired us and the blister on my right foot told me that it did not want to go.  When we got there, we slathered on sunscreen, grabbed some water, a few snacks and the camera, and headed off down into the valley.  We walked further back into the formations than I had ever gone before.  We found some really amazing formations that look like mud castles. 

Jake and Aubree climbed and Kyler and I watched.  We took a lot of pictures and had a good time.  Jake hurt his back when climbing down one of the formations, by he walked it off and was ok.  We pilled back into the Tahoe and started back to Orem.  Last time we were at Goblin Valley, my keys got locked in the car and a locksmith had to come rescue us, I did not let the keys out of my sight at any time during this adventure.  We made it home alive, and I slept very well that night.  We decided to go to the waterpark on Tuesday, and invited Sam and Lizzie to go with us.  We also took our neighbors.  We got there and found Travis and Jessica and their family.  We slathered everyone with sunscreen and had fun. 
Jake still ended up with a bad, blistering sunburn and the rest of us burnt as well.  But the fun was worth it.  Had to go back to work on Wednesday, but had such a great time over the weekend.  We all felt terrible because Meg had to work and did not get to do any of the fun stuff.  Her and Christy got to hang out on Sunday and Monday by themselves.  We are planning a return trip to Arches in November when it is cooler and when Rick and LoReen and Megan can go with us.