I sent my first Christmas Newsletter with our card this year, because in the past, I relied on letting people browse here, but I've been busy with other things. I miss the blog, but cannot foresee more time next year either. I'm guessing most of my readers have already seen this, but my blog is more of a personal history document for myself, so bear with me.
I should probably not be writing this letter right now….
Waking up to a 5-year old face thoroughly coated in green marker (“[The Frog] did it!”) and a Christmas tree whose lights are now unlightable (“it wasn’t me!”), tends to leave me waxing sarcastic. Nevertheless, too much has changed and not enough blogging has happened for me to feel we’ve really tried to stay connected with you without some kind of (adjective) Christmas newsletter.
We began the year in Poughkeepsie area, New York, adjusting to our new life there. Jay had a visiting position at Vassar College and was meanwhile applying for tenure-track positions elsewhere. 37 phone interviews, over 50 flights, and 5 offers later, by June, we were thrilled to have purchased a home in none other than Jay’s hometown - Dunstable, MA! He is now an associate professor at his undergraduate alma mater - University of Massachusetts Lowell and is enjoying his first semester “professing” there. Ever on the lookout for efficiency, he has recently taken to running on the treadmill while lugging a 15 lb backpack and is sure it has not only improved his posture but increased the impressiveness of his thighs. (ok, so I just threw that in that last bit.) Jay has been loving his new calling at church - teaching early morning seminary (a 6 am religion class for high school students from our church) and I get the sense that they are loving him as well. He continues to give me everything I want and always let me win, so I think he’s pretty awesome. Plus, if you google his name, he’s the first 2 hits!
The Frog (7 years old), after a year of homeschooling, is now enrolled in 2nd grade and commented to me that he is the only one in his class who said he likes school on his “All About Me” poster. He continues to wake the family before the crack of dawn and is happiest when he’s rough-housing, thumping and accidentally breaking things (at least that’s what it seems like) or pretending to be his favorite TV/movie/book characters. He has taught his sisters how to wield swords and use potty words at inappropriate times. We have finagled his way into the Cub Scout Wolf Den a year early (so he can come with me to my new church calling as a Den leader), and he enjoys those rambunctious meetings immensely. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from his 2nd grade teacher that he is an excellent reader and so has been paired up with a boy in the class who is special needs because, “[The Frog] is such a helpful sweetheart.” I am, though dumbfounded, obviously proud and will take as much credit as possible. He keeps us on our toes and keeps losing all his teeth. I well-up almost daily, mourning the loss of my 1st baby, while being pleased at how he has grown in so many ways.
Peach (5 years) has started half-day kindergarten. She is always the first to make friends with new people and loves riding on the school bus. She loves procuring costumes, stuffed animals and other miscellany from her tiny backpack, like rabbits from hats. Indeed, she is known for quietly stashing every small trinket she finds in unsuspecting locations. (Who expects to find a Nauvoo souvenir brick under their pillow?!) Peach loves picking out her own wild outfits, and finally lets me comb her hair (thankfully!) as long as she gets to choose the hairstyle. Last week, we had to mimic Cindy-Lou Who. She has an aptitude for making her whole body as stiff as a board when upset, and makes it very clear when things are not going according to her plan. Luckily, her younger sister is usually content to play their pretend games Peach's way and can often be heard taking part in their play dialogue exactly as instructed. Peach is by far the funniest in the family and when she’s not trying to get her way, can be extremely helpful and loving. She loves to cuddle and has thrashed her “blankie” to bits. I am relieved to have discovered she is more willing to clear her dishes if I close my eyes and act surprised when they’re missing.
Hazel (3) is the baby of the family, but sadly, no longer a baby. She is very proud of being a “big girl” and has been my most willing potty-trainer, by far. She is a thorough cleaner, when she wants to be, and likes things to be organized. Sometimes I catch her rearranging the silverware in the dishwasher so that all the forks don't mix with the spoons. She loves turning heads into smiles at the grocery store and asks to sit on the green horse on the mini merry-go-round outside (although less so now, after seeing another child ride it while it actually moves and plays music). She must always have her purse when we go out (though she still can’t open it without help) and is the reason I can never find my chapstick. Hazel somehow knows the whole alphabet and thinks she can write her name. She gives the tightest hugs and the best wet, suction kisses and unlike her siblings, prefers cereal to pancakes for breakfast. She enjoys placing stickers on her bellybutton (and on the wood floors and furniture) and drawing on her body and everywhere BUT paper- the markers have finally been confiscated. She is quick to remind me that “sharing is caring” whenever I have a sweet treat and has the greatest sweet tooth of anyone I know. Perhaps that is why she is so sweet. :)
This year, we somehow ended up hosting another foreign exchange student, this time from La Paz, Bolivia. It’s been so fun to have a teenager in the house! Monica (16) has brought music back into our home, works hard, and plays hard. She is the classic case of a city girl being forced to live in the country, and is making the most of it. Since coming to the USA, she has had a lot of firsts such as trick-or-treating, seeing a coyote, seeing all the Star Wars movies and being tackled (and tickled) by small children. She has learned how to ride a bike, become addicted to bagels, visited Maine, New York City, and Boston (several times). She has observed an eclipse, submitted a photo to the Boston Globe Scholarship photography competition and walked almost 5 miles by herself to get to the nearest mall. She joined the cross-country team and though claims to hate running, keeps running on our treadmill many times per week. She has mastered the art of the “selfie” and I am surprised at how many friends she has made so quickly. She is a great addition to our family and we love her spunk and playful, teasing nature.
In January, I took my first flight sans kids after having children (I got to read!! on a plane!!) to visit my dear college roommate in the Bay Area and catch up with some other old friends. I gained a huge amount of respect for single parents everywhere while Jay was constantly gone during his many many professorial interviews. I also had a mini college reunion with friends in NYC! After the second move in 1 year, I think I finally know how to do it properly, though am loudly hoping I won’t have to use my new knowledge anytime soon. I (with a LOT of help from my mother-in-law) painted our entire house and installed baseboards on the third floor while gaining a new love for the mitre saw (again, with a LOT of help, this time from my father-in-law). I also took up the ukulele and piano tuning. I accidentally got a small part-time job tutoring high school math and science, which has been so much fun for me. I’ve also been dabbling in accounting classes and am hoping to keep slowly pursuing a CPA, one class at a time, with my new “dependent’s discount” at UMass Lowell.
If you’re reading this letter, we must think you’re great and hope you will let us know if you are in the Boston area (or would like to be!). It would be great to catch up in person and we love having guests!! We hope this letter finds you well and thriving!
Jay, Libby, The Frog, Peach, Hazel & Monica