Thursday, January 04, 2018

2017 in Review

Happy New Year! Our transition from 2017 to 2018 was marked by badly printed holiday cards, necessitating having to reorder them. But other than that, it was a great year and pleasant holiday season for us. Here are some of our highlights!

Sarah (20) is in her junior year at Arizona State University, and because this news organization does not have a correspondent based in Phoenix, we do not know a ton of detail about what she is doing (perhaps she likes it that way). What we do know is that she had a fantastic season playing soccer, and Kris was fortunate to travel to see her play in a tournament in Boulder, CO, in October. As for academics, she is in ASU's honors college with a pre-med focus, and recently started an internship with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. She is also pursuing a research opportunity on campus and, in the little free time she has, works at a climbing gym.

Grace (17) is in her senior year at Southwest High School. It's hard to believe that we will have two daughters in college this fall! She has been accepted to 5 schools so far (Univ. of Minn., Univ. of Iowa, Univ. of Wisc. Eau Claire, Loyola University, and SUNY Stony Brook), and we're waiting to hear from a few others before the final round of research and decision making takes place. Meanwhile, Grace played her final season of high school soccer last fall and has been very busy with her job at The Waters on 50th, a senior living facility in Minneapolis where she is a server and best friend of numerous residents.

Emma (14) is a freshman at Southwest and in the midst of her second ski season with the Minneapolis Alpine Ski Team. This means a busy schedule of meets starting in late December through mid-February, plus practice nearly every day that they aren't racing. It's an intense program, but it is incredibly fun and the results of the training are impressive. Emma is already starting to ski like a pro, and among all of the 9-12 graders is finishing consistently in the middle of the pack. Before the ski season, Emma also played soccer for Southwest, first on the JV team but was soon promoted to varsity (one of only two freshman). It was a special soccer season for us to see Grace and Emma play on the same field together.

Anne (11) started middle school at Anthony, the last Layon girl to enter its hallowed halls. She has many new friends, so things seem to be going very well for her in the social department. Academically, her favorite class is language studies, where her school has all 6th graders take 3 months of Spanish, 3 months of French, and 3 months of Japanese. It's a wonderful way to expose children to languages and cultures, and after 6th grade they choose a language to focus on for the next two years. Anne was also busy with soccer most of the year, with the highlight being a tournament win in July at the USA Cup here in the Twin Cities.

Katie (47) continues to work in urgent care for a Park Nicollet clinic in Minnetonka. She is starting to transition into clinic administration, managing the schedule for her location but still working quite a few hours in the clinic caring for patients. When she isn't at work, she is busy adopting dogs! Well, one dog, at least: Katie instigated the adoption of our new golden doodle, Gus, in March. Having a puppy has been an absolute thrill and joy, and Gus couldn't have a more pleasant personality and spirit. He is the definition of fun, full of love and energy (sometimes too much). But now that he's almost 1 year old, we see him starting to mellow... every so slightly... into a more even-tempered dog.

Kris (46) is in his 4th year at Honeywell, working as a user experience researcher and designer for building management software. In practical terms this means helping contractors, engineers, and building owners operate their buildings effectively. The software interfaces that Kris designs are installed in facilities around the world, from commercial buildings to skyscrapers and factories. The work continues to be interesting and he usually travels once a month, either to Richmond, VA (where the subsidiary that he works for is located) or to customer and tradeshow locations. When he isn't working, he's likely at a soccer field, running or cycling around Minneapolis, cooking, or shopping for records to play on his new turntable.

Time continues to fly by, often faster than we would like. And the world (and our country, in particular) seemed to be more angry and intolerant last year — definitely not a good thing. But despite this, we feel very fortunate… fortunate to have friends, family, health, and other resources that help our family live life to the fullest. So we try not to let foolish leaders and grim headlines steal the joy from our lives, and we hope you do the same. Best wishes for a peaceful 2018 — may we all find many good things to cherish and celebrate.

(and for more photos, visit Kris's Instagram stream)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 in Review

As 2016 comes to a close, we're truly thankful for the great family and friends that we have. Thank you for your visits, emails, and cards during the year! But in case we haven't been in touch or seen each other lately, here's a bit of an update on what's happening with us.

Anne (5th grade) claims that she will be playing World Cup soccer sometime in her future, just like Alex Morgan. We can't argue with such an ambitious goal, as it motivates her to work hard on the field and also have lots of fun. Anne was also in her school's Kids on Broadway musical production again. When she's not at school or playing soccer, she's normally found playing with her best friend Adie, who lives next door in storybook fashion.

Emma (8th grade) also plays soccer for the same club (Minneapolis United), but this winter is trying a new sport: slalom racing. She has several years of skiing under he belt, but it will be her first time skiing through gates and racing to the bottom of the hill as fast as she can. Kris is particularly excited to watch her and be a volunteer gate judge stationed on the hill, which will give him a great vantage point to see her come down. He grew up skiing and racing, so it's with great pride that Emma is now giving it a try. And a highlight for Emma this year: a trip to NYC with Katie, our traditional "becoming a teenager" trip.

Grace (11th grade) is yet another soccer player in our household, also playing for Minneapolis United. When she's not in a game or at practice, she can often be found at her job, working at Turtle Bread (a local bakery and restaurant).  We're pretty thrilled that she's working there, as it comes with some nice discounts for dining in, and free goods that she can bring home after her shift. We've been the lucky recipients of delicious wheat bread, pumpkin bars, and other goodies. Also, a highlight of Grace's year: a trip to London and Paris with Katie, whose turn it was to take the "anywhere in the world trip". (Sarah's was in 2012 to Sydney, Australia, with Kris; next, Kris goes with Emma in 2018, and so far the destination is anticipated to be the Swiss Alps for skiing).

Sarah (sophomore in college) is having a good year at Arizona State, and continues to enjoy all of the opportunities that a large state university provides. She also enjoys the warm weather, at least when it's not 120 in August (!). She's continuing on a path to be premed and also minor in art. And new to this year is being on the club soccer team. ASU is a Division I school, which is pretty serious soccer and not Sarah's cup of tea. But the club level is still pretty high quality soccer (tryouts, a coach, etc.), a big step above intramurals, and she got to travel to Colorado for a tournament in September. Sarah also has a great job working at an indoor climbing gym in Scottsdale, which has reignited her passion for climbing – something that she did a lot in elementary school and junior high, but less in high school.

Kris and Katie still work at their respective employers: Kris, a principal interaction designer at Honeywell, and Katie, an urgent care physician at Park Nicollet. This summer they celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary in Duluth and on the North Shore of Lake Superior, where they hiked and visited Grand Marais, a beautiful little town not far from the Canadian border (and home to one of their favorite restaurants, The Angry Trout). Other highlights include Kris's surprise gift to Katie for her birthday: a Vikings game at their new home field, U.S. Bank Stadium; seeing about 200 soccer games (okay, maybe that's a high estimate); enjoying one of the most beautiful summers in Minneapolis (not too hot, and little stifling humidity); and Kris taking the girls yet again to the Boundary Waters for canoeing (he's been going nearly every summer since 2001).

We hope your year was also filled with good activities and pleasant memories. We also hope that if you haven't seen us in a while, please stop by and visit if you're in the neighborhood – we'd love to see you! Take care and all the best to you,

Kris, Katie, Sarah, Grace, Emma, and Anne

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! We hope you had a great 2014, and are looking forward to 2015 as we are.  Here are some highlights of our past year.

Anne is in third grade at Armatage Montessori, just down the block from our house. Our girls have been going to Armatage since 2003, and it continues to be a wonderful place to learn, meet friends, and also serve as a focal point of the neighborhood. One of these focal points is the annual Kids on Broadway musical, an after-school production that begins in October and culminates in several performances in early December. The production is composed of songs from several popular musicals, and this year was Anne's first time participating. She was a goat in Joseph and the Amazing Technical Dreamcoat — below are some fantastic costume and headshot photos by a parent photographer! When she isn't acting, Anne is busy playing soccer for Minneapolis United and taking piano lessons.

Emma is in sixth grade at Anthony Middle School, about one mile from where we live. She is adjusting to middle school extremely well and already seems to have about ten times as many friends as she did last year! Emma also did very well in soccer this year, with her team winning the MN State Tournament this fall for her bracket. Below is a photo of her victorious Minneapolis United Bulldogs, complete with their team mascots (their team is named after Joel's, their coach's, two dogs). Emma is in the second row, and second from the right.

Grace is a freshman at Southwest High School, one of many things that kept her busy this year. The biggest highlight of Grace's 2014 was a trip to Costa Rica in June with her choir, Partners in Praise. She has been in this choir for several years, and they do a national or international tour every summer but most girls fundraise for a while before joining the touring ensemble. After patiently waiting, Grace went on this year's trip and had a wonderful time. The choir had several performances including concerts at a university, orphanage, and women's shelter (unfortunately, Grace's summer and fall soccer schedules conflicted too much with choir practice, so she is now taking some time off from PIP). Below is a photo from another musical highlight, when Grace went to Minnesota Public Radio's Rock the Garden festival with Kris at the Walker Art Center.

Sarah is a senior at Southwest High School, and excited to head off to college next year. (!) In March, Sarah and Kris toured some campuses in California, which would provide a nice change of weather yet be in close proximity to some of our relatives who live there. We also had a wonderful surf lesson in La Jolla with Kris's cousin Peter and his friend Blair, who documented our morning with some great photos (below, of Sarah). Needless to say, Sarah confirmed her love of California and has applied to several schools there, and also to Arizona State in Phoenix, Univ. of Colorado Boulder, and some schools closer to home (Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of Wisconsin, and St. Olaf). Sarah also had an amazing trip in July, when she traveled to India with a group of youth from our Lutheran church to assist with an English language program at a boarding school. When she wasn't traveling or applying to college, Sarah was very busy with high school, which included being a co-captain of her varsity soccer team and taking advanced art classes (below is a charcoal drawing of a girl Sarah met in India).

Katie and Kris celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary this year with a trip to British Columbia. We flew into Seattle and spent an afternoon there, took a ferry to Victoria, BC, and spent two days there trying restaurants and seeing that province's spectacular history museum. Then we rented a car and drove to Tofino, a small town on the Pacific coast. The drive itself was stunning, and the town of Tofino and the nearby coastal areas and forests were all amazing as well as the resort where we stayed, the town's restaurants, and a local brewery. Tofino was so wonderful (a view of a Tofino sunset over the Pacific, below), that the last leg of our trip to Vancouver was nearly anti-climactic.

But Vancouver is as beautiful of a city as we had heard, and we had a wonderful time there, too. Including seeing the end of an international fireworks competition— just offshore in the harbor, right across the street from our hotel! We also enjoyed walking in Stanley Park, shopping in the market on Granville Island, and having some adventurous meals in Vancouver's many authentic Asian restaurants.

That trip was definitely the high point of our year, but we're so grateful to have had many other wonderful moments, too. With all four girls on traveling soccer teams, we have become serious soccer fans. Some of the year's best memories are sitting on the sidelines in the sun and cheering them on, visiting with the other soccer parents, and carpooling the girls and their energetic teammates to practices. It sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but it's the best work there is.

And when we're not doing that work, Katie continues to work as an urgent care physician for Park Nicollet, and Kris is a senior interaction designer at Honeywell.

Thanks for reading, and for those of you who don't live in the Twin Cities, please be sure to let us know if you're ever in the area — we would love to see you. We no longer have our landline (612-915-1162), but you can reach us at our mobile numbers (Kris: 612-201-8267; Katie: 612-812-2767).

Friday, January 03, 2014

2013 in Review

Happy New Year! A summary of highlights from 2013:

Anne (7) is represented by her photo above because she is constantly on the move, and is also always outside whenever she can be. This particular photo is a favorite of mine because I took it with my phone last spring while running. She ended up riding her scooter with me 3 miles that day! Like her sisters, Anne also plays soccer.

Emma (10) is in her last year at Armatage Elementary School, so next fall Anne will be walking down the street to school on her own. This photo of Emma and I was taken at a Twins game last summer. It was her visit to Target Field (and only my second), and we had excellent seats and the Twins also won that day. If you know how their season went, you know that this was somewhat like winning the lottery!

Grace (13) is in her last year at Anthony Middle School, so as she starts high school this fall Emma will take her place representing the Layon girls at that school. Grace is in her second year singing soprano for Partners in Praise girls choir. This year, the choir is traveling to Costa Rica and Grace will be joining the touring choir. Should be a big year for Grace!

Sarah (16) is a junior at Southwest High School and continues to play for two soccer teams, her Minneapolis United team and Southwest's varsity team. She traveled to three out-of-state tournaments last year (Nevada, Arizona, Iowa) and will be traveling again this winter to both Nevada and Arizona. She's starting to consider which colleges she'll be applying to later this year. Can it really be that time already?!

Kris (42) started a new job leading user experience and product design at Red Stamp, a social commerce company in southwest Minneapolis. Red Stamp is exploring innovative ways to leverage mobile devices to help people share custom digital and print communications. He loves the fast pace of the work, and also enjoys working a lot at home— though their office is only two miles from home, so not a bad commute either!

Katie (43) continues to work in urgent care for Park Nicollet, and took on some additional leadership responsibilities in 2012. When she's not working in the clinic, she continues to go a lot of baking and cooking— that is, when she is not busy doing a lot of the driving for the girls. But that's another advantage of my new job; it's a lot more flexible, so I'm doing a lot more driving with the various carpools to help Katie out these days, which is really nice!

So all in all, 2013 was a pretty good year. We hope yours was as well!


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 in Review

As I write this, I see a nice yard full of snow — so it looks quite wintery compared to the brown and barren look that I remember our yard having last winter.

2012 was another great year, and we hope it was the same for you. Here's a brief rundown of what we did:

Anne (6) is now in in 1st grade and is still in that utterly joyful age where everything is fun and exciting. She is always beaming with joy and brings that energy with her to the soccer field and, now since last fall, to the piano lesson studio. She's also been spending a lot of time with her new best friend next door, Adi.

Emma (9) is in 4th grade — hard to believe she'll be wrapping up her last year of elementary school next year! Emma continues to take piano lessons, play soccer, and pursue a variety of creative interests. Including photography and yoga with our dog Leprechaun (also 9).

Grace (12) is in 7th grade and moved up to the older touring choir in the Partners in Praise girls choir organization. Although she didn't go to San Francisco last summer or will be going to Italy this summer, we've promised that she'll go on tour with them in the next few years. Needless to say, she's anxious for that time to arrive! Meanwhile she's also busy with soccer, playing U-13 for Minneapolis United, and got introduced to kayaking one weekend up at Grandma Layon's house on Grand Lake.

Sarah (15) is a sophomore at Southwest High School and in her second year of playing soccer for two teams, her U-16 Minneapolis United team and Southwest's varsity team. She traveled to three out-of-state tournaments last year (Arizona, Iowa, Michigan) and will be traveling again this winter to Nevada and Arizona. But the best moment of the year? — getting her braces off in August! (note the nice and, uh, expensive smile in our photo card)

Kris (41) will soon be finishing his second year as a mobile product manager for Capella Education Company in Minneapolis. He enjoys leading a team of 12 designers and developers who work on mobile applications and web sites that help support a number of academic programs for online adult learners. He also traveled quite a bit this year to speak at several conferences, including trips to Europe and Hawaii.

But the best trip of the year was with Katie (42) to California, to celebrate her taking her medical board exams again. It's something she has to do every ten years and the studying reminded them both of being in medical school, so a week of touring vineyards in the hot fall weather of Napa Valley was a fun reward (and also explains the sun hats in our photo). When Katie's not at work, she's usually found baking, reading, or catching up on Downton Abbey.

We wish all family and friends a very healthy and happy new year in 2013!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 in Review

Happy New Year and welcome back to the Layon family blog!

As you can see, last year was not a big year for blogging, and we may have reached a place where one update per year will have to suffice. We're just too darn busy having fun, I guess, to take a break and write about it!

You probably also noticed that our photo card arrived a wee bit late this holiday season. This was not intentional and, in fact, should not have happened at all. We were actually quite proactive about ordering photo cards in late November, but when they arrived the quality was terrible (fortunately our money was refunded). So after re-ordering and having them arrive at the end of December, we managed to not get them into envelopes and out the door until January.

So those details aside... what else happened in the Layon household in 2011?

Anne started kindergarten at Armatage Montessori, so we bid farewell to preschool (and preschool tuition) forever! Anne loves her teacher and new friends, and also enjoyed playing soccer last summer.

Emma is in third grade at Armatage and continues to develop an interest in art and design. She also plays soccer and takes piano lessons.

Grace is in sixth grade at Anthony Middle School and has adjusted very well to middle school life. She has several new friends, continues to play soccer, and also continues to take piano. She's also continues to sing in Con Brio choir.

Sarah is in ninth grade at Southwest High School and so is our third who started at a new school last fall (it was certainly a big year in the school department!). 2011 was a great year for her: her Minneapolis United soccer team advanced to Premier status, and she advanced to a new orchestra in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony (she also continues to take private flute lessons).

Katie continues to work at Park Nicollet urgent care 3-4 days per week, and continues to appreciate not having to work overnight any longer nor having to see cases as acute as in the emergency room. When she's not at work, she does a ton of driving around town for the girls' activities and a large amount of our cooking and baking. And in other notable news, Katie started running last year and ran her first 5K race in November!

After ten years at the University of Minnesota, Kris changed jobs and is now a mobile product design manager at Capella Education Company. He now leads a team of designers and developers who make mobile apps for university students who take their courses online. It's a fun new job where he gets to work with a lot of smart people, so he's enjoying it a lot. He also wrote a second book last summer and fall (about mobile web design).

Last but not least, our trusty beagle Leprechaun is still hanging in there and is always a happy companion. He's now 8 years old, getting a bit more gray, and seems to sleep more than ever (retirement seems to be great!).

We hope your 2011 was also a good year, and wish you the best in 2012.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 in Review

Thanks for visiting the Layons’ digital yearbook! We hope you had a great 2010. Ours was pretty good - here are some highlights:
  • Kris and Katie observed 15 years of marriage in 2009... but were too busy to do anything special to celebrate until February 2010. That's when they went to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for one week. (it was wonderful!)

  • Sarah, who turned 13 on Nov. 17, is in her last year of middle school and her fourth year of playing soccer with the same team of girls. They continue to do well, playing their way to regional and state tournaments. When she's not playing soccer, she plays the flute in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony.

  • Grace turned 10 on July 21 and is in her last year of elementary school. She also plays soccer, plays piano, and is in her second year singing for Con Brio, a metro-area girls choir.

  • Emma turned 7 on March 31 and is in second grade. She also plays soccer and piano like Grace, and spends most of her other free time drawing and pondering her future as an architect or interior designer. We'll see whether she sticks with that plan; she has plenty of time to change her mind!

  • Anne turned 4 on April 4 and is in her last year of pre-school. Not to be the odd one out, she plays soccer, too, but doesn't yet take any music lessons. She's the comic in the family, but that's not why we'll be grinning from ear-to-ear when she's done with pre-school in May (read: no more tuition!).

I suppose Katie and I should mention that it's a big birthday year for us, too; she turned 40 in November (and fortunately Kris is still in his 30s until March). Katie's job changed slightly this year; she now works for Park Nicollet urgent care in their St. Louis Park and Minnetonka locations. Kris continues to manage web projects at the University of Minnesota, and wrote a book about mobile application design.

We wish everyone much love, peace, and happiness in the coming year!

- Kris & Katie (and Sarah, Grace, Emma, and Anne)

To make up for a lazy year of blogging, some additional photos from the past year are below, including:
  • Kris and Katie in Mexico

  • Kris, Sarah, and Grace in the BWCA with Grandpa Kent, Uncles Erik and John, Jane, and Steven

  • Katie and Sarah in New York

  • Other pictures of Sarah, Grace, Emma, and Anne