Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Dylan, Laura, and Ashlynn. It's hard to believe another year has gone by already. But, our leg lamp is in the window, our tree is up and decorated, and the egg nog is in the fridge, so it must be time for our annual Christmas letter!
2008 was a year of big changes for us. We finally got good news on the job front when Dylan's job turned full-time just before Christmas last year. He was hired as an unemployment adjudicator for the state of Illinois. Unfortunately, it was at the Champaign Unemployment Office, which meant driving 85 miles one-way to work for him. Fortunately, after 6 months in Champaign, Dylan got assigned to a special project: writing a training program for his department's new computer system. He gets to do his work for this in the Effingham office right down the road, so that's given us all more time together.
Laura still works part time at Domino's, and when she has spare time she devotes it to her animal rescue causes. She managed to find homes for dozens of unwanted pets this year and even helped raise money for the local Humane Society. In September, we helped them put on their biggest fundraiser of the year. We partnered up with the Effingham County Sheriff's Office to put on the Posse Run - a big motorcycle rally that attracted hundreds of bikers. Laura was one of many volunteers who spent weeks recruiting local businesses to sponsor the event. Then, on the big day, we helped set up and sold raffle tickets. The Posse Run raised several thousand dollars, and was such a big success that they're going to do it again next year.
2008 was also a year of big change for Ashlynn. She started going to daycare part time, and it's been really good for her. It's cured her of a lot of her shyness and really opened her up. She loves being with the other kids and she now looks forward to going and playing with her friends. She has also discovered Dora the Explorer, Elmo, and Winnie the Pooh, though she still likes Spongebob Squarepants. She also got to be in two parades this year, one with the Humane Society and the other with her daycare class in the Halloween parade. Both times it was quite an adventure for her!
In March, Ashlynn's grandparents Erwin and Judy came down from Milwaukee to visit. We drove up to Rantoul and toured the Air Force museum at Erwin's old duty
station, Chanute Air Force Base. We saw lots of planes and Ashlynn was just fascinated with them! She also got her first taste of swimming when we all took a dip in the hotel pool where they were
staying at, and she loved that as well.
In May we took our one vacation of the year. We went down to Atlanta, GA, to visit Ashlynn's other set of out-of-state grandparents, Dean and Mary Ann. We had a big Easter Egg Hunt, and Ashlynn got to hunt for eggs with all her cousins, aunts and uncles. It was a nice relaxing week with visits to the Georgia Aquarium, Stone Mountain Park and a couple of days at the mountain house.
The low point of the year was, without a doubt, The Great Flood of '08. We had a once in decades amount of rain last spring, with entire counties in this area being declared federal disaster areas. During this storm our entire basement flooded with about 3 inches of standing water. It could have been a really huge disaster, but fortunately Dylan was awake when it started and we were able to save all the furniture. As it was, the only thing that was ruined was the carpet, which was old and needed replacement anyway. With a lot of work, and a little help from relatives and friends, we were able to get it all put back together again. We were very fortunate, but it's still scary and sobering to watch your daughter's toys floating in the current that's flowing from the living room to the laundry room.
Our pets are all doing good and we added a new one to our little family last year. In addition to our pugs Bella and Paige and our labs Harry and Maddie we now have a little stray cat, Shizzy, that we took in. She stays outside and is very content to do so. She even has her own little cat house. Ashlynn really loves having all of them around and even does her part to help feed and water them from time to time.
As busy as last year was this year promises to be an even busier one for us, and full of even more changes. We are so thankful for all our family and friends and the blessings we have in our life. May you all have a Merry Christmas and may God Bless you and yours in 2009. Happy New Year!
Dylan, Laura and Ashlynn Fenley