Tuesday, December 27

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!