2011 Janssen Family Review

After several failed attempts at getting this posted on our blog, here it finally is!!  I am sooooooooooooooo not the tech person in our family.  Bet you couldn’t have guessed!  Without further delay, the 2011 Janssen Family Review:

It seems we think the same thing each year, “How can it possibly be time for this already?”  But alas, here we are, once again experiencing the truth of the matter that time does in fact fly when you’re having fun!

Adventures come in so many different forms, we just never know where we’re going to find our next one.  Our greatest adventure of the year has been brought to us by that beautiful spirited bundle of energy & joy we all know as Ben; our Benton Alfred; our own little Alpha-Ben.

Our year began with concerns of little things that we always just thought made Ben, well, Ben.  Things that were not necessarily wrong, but just different from what we had experienced with the older kids.  Through many ups and downs and more conversations than we can count with professionals who have become almost as much family as any others, we still don’t have an official diagnosis, but we suspect he is on the Autism spectrum.  This has lead us to speech therapy on a regular basis during the school year and while he still has bad days, there are so many more good days to balance it all out and for that, we are thankful beyond measure.  As Rob pointed out one night last summer, “We all have bad days sometimes.”  He’s so right.

Speaking of Rob, he’s another one of our great adventures!  We often joke he is our experimental model because who really knows what they’re doing the first time around anyway?  Oh how many times I’ve felt that way as we find ourselves split between the toddlers years with Ali and the teen years with Rob.  Perhaps these are the years which caused cavemen to coin the term “man-cub”; not yet a man, but far beyond the years of the cub.  All joking aside, Rob is one of the most genuine people I know and we are so blessed to be his family.  He is a phenomenal big brother (especially to the youngest two) and quite the history buff.  Highlights of his year include getting contacts; working for Mrs. Peterson & our wonderful neighbor, Jim; and all the fun that comes with JH youth group at Checkrow.  He’s also quite the marketing mastermind when I let him loose to come up with different ideas for my growing photography business, PhotosbyJo, landing me three junior high dances, high school homecoming & prom yet to come, not to mention a few family shoots which have come out of those.  This has been such a fun time for both of us, especially for me as I watch him grow and develop an interest in something that has been a passion for me for so many years.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to do something I love with people I love and create precious keepsakes for those who come to me.  There will come a time these captured moments are all we have to hold in our hands of those we hold so dear in our hearts.  I don’t take this responsibility lightly & absolutely love seeing these precious moments unfold in the pictures I’m blessed to create.

While I’ve been snapping the shutter for decades, the business side of this adventure got its start in the summer of 2010 when I was trying to figure out a way to help Chris raise funds for the St. Jude run and I have been blessed that it has grown from there.  You can see some of my work on my facebook profile:  PhotosbyJo.

St. Jude is such a wonderful organization that a portion of my bottom line goes to support their amazing efforts.  So touched by all the emotion of last year’s run, Chris & I made a decision that we’d run for St. Jude together in 2011.  And that day, we decided we’d run together until we couldn’t run any more.  There is just no way to describe the emotional overload of doing something like this.  I had never run a day in my life before hitting the pavement to train for last summer.  Oh, I liked to think that I tried in college, but those were never successful attempts, unless of course, you count run a block, walk 5 success.  However, I’ve found that something happens when it becomes personal; when there’s a person you know & love, no matter how long it’s been since you spent time with them; when you realize nothing will stop you from running to help find a cure for that person, and every person like her, and heaven forbid, your own children should they ever be effected by this horrible monstrosity called cancer or other inconveniences such as autism.  I say this because Autism Speaks allows us to raise funds for autism research as we participate in different runs as well.

Ironically, when you do something like this, you find yourself reflecting.  A lot.  I found myself wondering how it was even possible that I ran 7 miles in one day when a few short months before, running even a minute was a stretch.  Chris was the ultimate cheerleader telling me he had no doubt I could do this & not to worry, I wouldn’t even feel it on run day.  He was so right.  It was just an emotional high outdone only by our wedding day and the birthdays of each of our children.  I also found myself thinking I just couldn’t stop.  There are too many things in life that provide stress, I wanted – no I NEEDED to keep running, not only for my health & to help St. Jude & Autism Speaks, but also for my own sanity.  That road has taken a beating from my feet and relieved my frustrations more times than I can count.  I choose to love my life, no matter what the adventure of the hour may be, and running helps me to keep that focus.

Fortunately, my running buddy (also a St. Jude first-timer in 2011) found herself thinking the same thing about not stopping and we have continued to hit the pavement together throughout the fall.  We enjoyed the first annual Ghouls & Goblins run in October & we’re gearing up for Get Lit! through the Festival of Lights in East Peoria on New Year’s Eve WITH OUR HUSBANDS.  So very excited about this!

And now, my cousin has decided to join us for the 2012 St. Jude Run, too!  It’s quickly become a family event.  Even our kids got involved this year by helping to organize a Kids Helping Kids event one day last summer which brought in more than $500 for St. Jude!  Rob played his trumpet uptown in front of Main Street Cafe, then took donations at the pump at Caseys.  Tom & Jac corralled their Girl Scout & Cub Scout groups to help with a car wash & bake sale.  What a fabulous day for our little town to come together!!!  Thank you to so many of you we saw that day!

In the midst of our Ben-venture early in the year, we realized Ali wasn’t talking. At all.  Not even trying.  With a speech therapist at our disposal thanks to Ben, we quickly acted on her advice and Ali began therapy with another specialist and we now spend one-two mornings a week on speech for Ben & Ali  and one morning in a preK group for Ben – by Wednesday noon, mom is therapied out.  It is so worth it, though, as there are often days I remind myself not to stifle her banter, we wanted her to talk.  We have reached the pinnacle of why I wanted to name her Aliyah Lillian – the joy in hearing her little two-year-old voice say, “My name is Ayeeya Yiyyian Janssen.”  Okay, the truth of the matter is, she is named after my brother and Chris’ grandmother, but I still LOVE to hear her say those words, especially when she giggles with me after she’s done…another grand adventure, that little Ali-bean is!

In addition to Scouts, Tom & Jac both still enjoy AWANA kids club at church and joining Rob on stage at the Ellisville Opera House with the Spoon River Rascals.  Tom was the mayor of munchkin land, Jac was a munchkin, and Rob headlined as The Cowardly Lion in their production of The Wizard of Oz this fall.  What a joy it is to watch our kids literally come alive on stage.  It’s almost sad to realize this is the end of an era for the Janssen trio as Rob will be advancing to the Senior Rascals this summer while Tom & Jac stay in the younger group.  It’s enough to choke a mom up.

All three kicked off the Christmas season with a production of Chris-Myth Busters at church.  Rob opened the show with Christmastime is Here Again, while Tom & Jac were leads in the show which highlighted truths of God’s Word, despite not knowing many of the specific facts of that first Christmas so long ago.  I found it humbling to lead the charge of this group of Checkrowite kids who only practiced together twice before the performance.  It was a definite leap of faith, but God is faithful and nothing is impossible through Him.  Those kids rocked it!!  We may not know all the facts of the night of that babe’s birth so many years ago, but the truth is God sent him for us.  Great job, kiddos!

That pretty much wraps up the year in a nutshell for the Janssen family.  Sure we still have the daily grind of work & running kids here & there.  Chris is still the JH/HS principal at Spoon River Valley Schools in London Mills; still the chairman of Avon Businessman’s Association (read Avon Fat Steer Show); and still loving the thrill of being a volunteer fireman.  I’m still working part-time at Checkrow; teaching Caterpillar Club (preK) there for Ben & his friends once a week; still Cubmaster for the local Cub Scouts; still Troop Leader for Jaclyn’s Girl Scouts group; and still juggling the adventures of keeping a family of seven on task…and loving every moment of it!






Yogi & BooBoo all snuggled up



BULLSEYE! Tom at Cub Scout Camp 8.2.11


Jac as a fashion model for Halloween



so blessed – most handsome date AGAIN! 🙂


Merry Christmas, everyone!

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