Monday, January 1

Books read in 2017

I've never listed or totaled the books I've read in a year but today it felt like an interesting exercise. Given the constraints of listening to books in the car or while doing chores or reading before bed, I was surprised by how many books I got through this year! My life was greatly enriched by the starred ones.

Adult Novel
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
* Peace Like a River by Leif Eager
* The Color Purple by Alice Walker
* Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Adult Non-Fiction
* The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute
* Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

* Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
** The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
* The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Abrams
I am Malala (repeat) by Malala Yousafzai
* Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
* Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
* The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy by Carol Lynn Pearson

Chick Lit
Home Front and Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
Maybe in Another Life and After I do by Taylor Reid
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
* Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Youth Fiction
* The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
* Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
* Matilda by Roald Dahl
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
* Half Magic by Edward Eager
Otherwise Known as Shiela the Great by Judy Blume
Wayside Stories Collection by Louis Sachar
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
The Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty
* My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
* The Best/Worst Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
* The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Sunday, December 24

Christmas Letter 2017

Another year, another whirlwind and we’re grateful for the journey! We’ve lived in Stuttgart for 9 years now! You are in our hearts this Christmas season. Thank you for blessing our lives with your light and goodness! We hope this finds you and your loved ones gathered in the peace, joy, and warmth of holiday traditions and good health. We love this time of year to celebrate the Savior of the World!

This young family of ours keeps us hopping, as does Ryan’s wanderlust+travel deals! This year’s travels took us on a ski trip with church friends in an Army lodge; a hop for Easter break to Mallorca island, Spain; the Paris Temple open house; our first hut hike in Austria with ward friends; exploring the awesome Alps in Kandersteg, Switzerland, while the boys were at Scout Camp; Veteran’s day weekend on Lake Como, Italy; and when Abby [Bare] and Trevor Buck came for Thanksgiving we showed them highlights of Paris, Venice and Florence.

In August, we were able to make an epic trip to the East Coast to get reacquainted with many of Ryan’s family on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. In the following week we raced to see more people and sites we love down the coast. We saw the Big Apple with brother-in-law, Nathan Ha, and a dear friend, Shana Serrano. Then to Philadelphia where we crashed with two of Tracie’s college soul sisters and their families before landing in DC to play with Tracie’s brother Chris’s family and squeeze in a few more dear friends. There’s never enough time with people you love!!! The kids were ecstatic about US candy, donuts, and Chick-fil-A, but not so much with the big city sites. I-95 was all sorts of frustration for Ryan who sure loves the Autobahn! C’est la vie!

Easton, 14, 8th Grade - Grew over six inches and now shaves his ‘stache and is taller than Mom! He is all-around dutiful! First regular job dog walking, Red Cross First Aid/CPR babysitter certification, tennis and piano lessons, Model United Nations admin, Scout Camp, Life Scout, assistant patrol leader and Deacon’s quorum presidency first counselor, cookie baker and emerging dinner cook. He really enjoyed his first school dance with friends as well as watching Stranger Things with Mom, Dad and McKay.

McKay, 11, 6th grade - Our strategically-minded, social, competitor and athlete likes his hair longer with the side-swoop. He is losing his last baby teeth and is ready to grow UP fast! Activities included MathQuest club, baseball, piano lessons, running a 5k with Ryan, tennis lessons, LOVED his first Scout camp, Lego builder, board game lover, and now learning programming. On the lookout for ways to earn money that don’t involve animals because he wants an iphone! Enjoyed first middle school dance, hanging out with friends, and messaging them. Aches for the sociality of school in our new homeschool venture.

Morgan, 9, 3rd grade - Tried a ballet and hip hop dance class and then discovered a love of cheerleading, stunts, working on splits, and cartwheels! It’s her favorite mode of getting from place to place! Thrived in the Young Americans music, dance, theater workshop! Loves earning money helping Easton dog sit and dog walk. She loves to create and do art projects, attend Activity Day Girls at church, and is learning to bake and cook. Life goal to live near water, have a paddle board and a dog to swim with. She’s enduring piano lessons and sure is fun to watch “feel” the music as she plays!

Jake, 6 - His joy for life and how he expresses it keeps us laughing and on our toes, especially his comically timed swearing!?! He finished German kindergarten, is learning to read and do school work, and loves having mom one-on-one for his lessons. He’s an independent lunch maker of sandwiches, nachos, and tortilla cheese rollups for himself and Aliza. He scored some great goals and saved many runaway balls in fall soccer. Lost first two teeth! Started melodica lessons. Such a fun active imagination as a Ninja, Power Ranger, and Lego builder!

Aliza, 3 - Her vocabulary and expressive assertiveness and/or sweetness kills us! She loved her Kindermusik group with mom. Decided to be potty trained and be a big girl all at once this summer. Demands to have homework like her siblings, especially drawing sticks, bubbles, “A”, and ghosts. Loves going to nursery at church, playing on her own, with siblings or her “best friends.”

Tracie, 40 - Finds great joy in seeing kids try new activities and grow into themselves! Continued to hold German class and was thrilled to see her teacher find love and remarry! Member of Int’l School Parent Council which facilitated first student job fair with parent presenters. Scout Committee secretary, then membership co-leader (recharter tedium). Bonus Bare family time with a girls’ weekend in Phoenix, Luke & Brenda’s wedding, visit Chris’s family, and Abby and Trevor’s visit here! This fall, homeschool circus trainer-in-training. Loved coaching Jake’s soccer team! Called to work with young women at church. Joined a European LDS working group focused on positive messaging regarding human sexuality and church settings. The group is soon launching a website, are providing speakers for conferences (Ward Education Day in Stuttgart January 2018), and doing leadership trainings in Europe.

Ryan, 43 - Earned the challenging German hunting license. He loved the intense eight weeks of evenings plus Saturday courses and shooting range practice! Also took up Sous Vide method cooking of delicious steak, chicken, and the best BBQ ribs! Enjoys serving in a new bishopric at church and making deeper connections with our congregation. Began search for professional growth opportunities. Reconnected with his siblings, their families, and his love of all things New England. Go Red Sox! Coached and refereed Jake’s soccer team. Work trip to DC followed by visit to his Mom and Mark to help set up Christmas and filled their freezer with pies and crusts. He is our beloved Thanksgiving chef, giddy tour guide for visitors, and Christmas spirit mascot with his first fake tree and self-installed automated mood lighting!

All our love,

The Carters

Tuesday, December 27

Christmas Letter 2016

Another wonderfully full year for our family, fortunately now in a home that fits! We moved to another rental in the same village early this Summer. Here’s a rundown of the Carter clan and many of our fun adventures.

Easton, 12, 7th grade – Froze at Scout Klondike Derby and Summer Camp in Kandersteg, Switzerland. Swim and guitar lessons, Model United Nations club, volunteered at Stuttgart breakfast kitchen for his school Action & Service project, baking treats, student council rep presentation on empathy and bullying. Enjoys trying dance moves and special handshakes, Studio C skits, video games, dabbling on the piano and dog sitting. Learning to navigate city bus system.

McKay, 10, 5th grade – Strategic athlete at recess and track and soccer seasons. Coming into his own academically, enjoys playing the piano, baking treats, tried wrestling camp, MathQuest club, elected Student Council representative 4th year in a row, school play club, and Cub Scouts. Travel adventure with dad to Lake Bled, Slovenia. Learning his leadership potential with great mentors at Int’l School of Stuttgart!

Morgan, 8, 2nd grade – Braved first grade in German school. Loves to do art, face painting, cooking club, animal family playing with friends, read with Mom or Dad. Chose to be baptized and joined Activity Day Girls. Starting piano lessons, loved ballet class this summer. Thriving back at int’l school.

Jake, 5, German kindergarten – Peanut butter or Nutella-eating early riser, loves his American best friends at Kindi [Sigh]. Loves to sing Pirates of Penzance and Hamilton. Enjoyed first soccer season! Everyone he meets, young or old, is potentially his new best friend!

Aliza, 2 – Vocal early riser, mommy and me Musikgarten class, loves Nursery and especially her leader Josie. Jake’s best playmate and stuffed animal hoarder.

Tracie, almost 40! – January through the end of July were a blur facilitating Morgan’s integration into German first grade and staying afloat with the rest of our life. Great experience that stretched this mom of five too thin! Love hosting German class twice a week. Teach Relief Society 1-2x/month (women’s Sunday school class). Coached Jake and McKay’s soccer teams with Ryan. First Disney park experience. Loved visits from Nick & Christine Bare, Gina Waddoups, and Eric & Tamsyn Carter’s family!!!

Ryan – Planned and led our family on great travel adventures to southern Spain, regions around Paris, a two-week RV trip through England and now Christmas markets. Also led Tracie’s brother Nick and wife Christine on a whirlwind trip around Italy and a buddy on a hike through Interlaken Switzerland. Heading into third year of a five-year contract as site lead with CSRA. Enjoying the satisfaction of building a solid, functioning team atmosphere at work. Serving as Sunday School president and enjoys facilitating the new Teacher Council discussions each month.

Cancer took Ryan’s younger brother, Greg, early this past year after a valiant two-year battle. We can not comprehend the depth of loss felt by his parents and dear husband, Nathan. Mourning Greg, it has been heartening to reflect on this year’s highlights and be deeply appreciative of our many blessings.

We wish you health and happiness this season. May the peace, joy and love found in following our Savior’s light bless your home and heart.

Christmas Letter 2015

Before I post our 2016 letter, I figured I'd post our 2015 letter to catch this record up a bit.

Star Valley, WY

Merry Christmas! Another year has flown by with many significant experiences for our family. We have now loved living in Germany for 7 years! This summer we sold our town home in Virginia and that felt rather momentous! That home was too small for our family to ever return to. One of the biggest reasons we stay here is the family-friendly pace of life we experience here. It comes with other costs – being far from loved ones, hard-to-predict job security that determines our kids’ schooling options and other important benefits, a very expensive housing market, and a very spread out church community. But we absolutely love the exposure to many cultures and the ease of travel here in Europe and take advantage of these as often as we can. Here's what else we've been up to in 2015:

Ryan (41) received a big promotion at the end of 2014 and is managing a growing team of information technology project leaders and developers as a contractor with the US Dept of Defense here in Europe. Being management definitely has its ups and downs but keeping his clients happy has been fulfilling. In November, he was selected to represent his company on a team bidding for a new large contract here in Germany. While in the US for the presentation, he relished time with his East Coast family. Ryan takes advantage of each year’s three day weekends and holidays to satisfy his wanderlust. This year he took us exploring more of Venice; Provence, France for Spring Break; Mayrhofen, Austria for the autumn Alpine cow festival; and parts of Switzerland. In May he and Easton hiked the scenic Italian coast of Cinque Terre, Italy. In August he joined Tracie’s family reunion in Swan Valley, Idaho, where he squeezed in Yellowstone for us at the end. At church he leads Easton's scout group and teaches Morgan's Primary class. Family comes first for him and we are so lucky to have him!!!

Tracie's (39) life is a blur with five young kids! Aliza's hospitalization in January took months to recover from with everything on her plate at home and at church. Much of her time and energy this past year has been spent searching for a home to better fit our family’s size and evaluating the kids’ schooling options within new constraints of Ryan’s contract. Last spring she was released as Primary president and now teaches in Relief Society. YAY! Homeschooling Easton last year thankfully wasn't a disaster, and this year Morgan is being homeschooled. Tracie loved summer in Kennewick, her family reunion, and attending part of her 20th high school reunion. She earned chops for traveling alone with five kids – 24 hours by plane each way and a couple really long car rides! This fall, she organized a private beginner German course to fit her schedule. It's her third beginner course and she likes to say she's a remedial student. J

Easton (11) is thriving in 6th grade back at the international school after being homeschooled last year at his request. This fall he was elected as a student council rep, enjoys the quiet of homework club after school to get his work done, and is a kind, responsible student and family member. He is taking guitar lessons and dabbles on the piano. At church he is enjoying Scouting and is becoming a confident leader, eager to invite friends. He's also excited to advance to Young Mens in December! He loves to read, learn computer coding, play video games like Disney Infinity, watch Studio C and CNN Student News.

McKay (9) is an earnest 4th grader at the int’l school where there are 10 native tongues in his class of 15 students. He was elected student council rep for the third year in a row and is often selected by teachers and peers to help and lead. He is taking piano lessons and joined the Green Team and MathQuest after school clubs. He loves math! He played baseball last spring, is an impressive runner, and loves playing any group sport.  He is eager to earn money and keep his chart up to date. He has a generous heart, loves to build things with Legos or Keva blocks, enjoys competitive board games, and can drive a hard bargain!

Morgan (7) is growing fast, losing many teeth this year and enjoying visits from the Tooth Fairy.  She has boundless energy, is a fish in the water, has a quick running stride, and loves parks! Ryan helped her learn to ride a bike this year! Her favorites of the US trip were playing with cousins, adopting Papa's dog Maggie as her own, riding horses at the reunion, and having swim lessons with Aunt Lorry. She enjoyed soccer this fall and wants mom to coach. She hoards stuffed dogs and cats to keep her dream alive of owning a real one some day. She loves crafting and is being homeschooled for 1st grade this year. It's great fun seeing her gain confidence as a reader!

Jake (4) loves hero costumes, building with Legos, playing with Disney Infinity characters and having playmates. He loves saying family prayers and has infectious joy! He started German kindergarten and is convinced he speaks German and those other kids speak English. He is a picky eater, stealthy early riser/Nutella jar raider, vocal back seat driver, and requires chores to be turned into a game. Thankfully, he loves to snuggle Mom and "be destroyed" by Dad in wrestle fests. He plays so hard he often puts himself to bed!

Aliza (1) started our year with a bang by being hospitalized with a HiB infection in her blood and elbow joint fluid for three weeks. At four months old, she was two days shy of getting her second of three immunizations against it! We were so blessed by many helping hands who saw our family through the difficult time apart! Now, fully recovered, Aliza holds her own as the object of everyone's affection and teasing. Easton secretly trained her to walk early at 10 1/2 months. She is reserved and determined like him, loves to be silly and follows everyone around unless she's wreaking havoc on her circuit of destruction in our apartment. She's a great napper, loves books and music (especially Easton's guitar practicing), and resisted being weaned at 12-15 months.

We hope this finds you and your loved ones enjoying this Christmas season. We are grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a loving God who has blessed and helped us through this year. You are in our thoughts and we wish you a very Happy New Year!