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December 20, 2014

Dear Friends and Family,

I've managed to wait too long to send official Christmas photo cards, so I'm just sending photos we've printed on our new printer. (We realized that we've been fighting with the old printer in excess of a year, because it was at this point last year that we stopped even trying to print bi-directionally , one of the many defaults you probably aren't even aware of , because the alignment was quite bad and couldn't be fixed.) I am thinking I will probably just send to people who send to us, because it's just been a full year and we could use the break. This year has been full of hacks of this sort, because we simply haven't had the time to take care of things in the usual manner.

Ironically, though, we did manage to squeeze in the important things in life like acquiring many new hobbies. First, Michael and Donna are now Uncle Michael and Aunt Donna! Michael's sister had a baby boy named Aiden one year ago today! The older boys joined Cub Scouts, although Theodore believes he is a Cub Scout as well! Somewhere between May 9 and June 5 we went from having no bicycles to having one or more per family member and riding in excess of 20 miles on a typical trip. (This summer, the boys rode well over 200 miles.) This time-frame included Edwin falling and getting a seriously painful impact on his adult molar when he collided with his handlebars. (It healed well with no damage.) That happened with training wheels, so we figured there had to be a better way to learn. We figured the kids were less likely to fall after they learned to bike, and that was mostly true. If you want to hear the full story on that, there is a more detailed blog post at

In March, we got a soymilk maker. My very first impression was that it was a rip-off, because of its lightweight design. Boy, did that machine prove me wrong! It paid for itself in about a month or so, and it's really easy to use. It gets used about 5 times per week. You still have to strain the milk at the end, but they even gave us a strainer and pitcher with the machine, so that is not bad at all. In April (or possibly earlier) the Ethiopian grocery store down the street opened up. We had never seen green coffee beans before. But it was only about four dollars a pound so I got a pound and tried following the storekeeper's directions, not expecting it to work. But boy did it work! We have never had coffee like this before, and (perhaps sadly) this has become a new hobby. This summer, Michael got a new lathe with the help of his Dad (Jack), and set that up in our basement so he can do all sorts of projects and work on designing clock mechanisms. Michael has spent much time in the basement charging up his creative juices since the lathe arrived! And in September, we started making soy yogurt, also inspired by Jack.

You would think with all these hobbies, nothing would get done around here. And sometimes, it feels that way. But things have to get done, and they usually do. Although, one day, there must have been so little clean laundry that Edwin came out of his bedroom, wearing what I presumed to be a pair of Zachary's pants. He in fact had donned a pair of Theodore's pants! They were a pair of 18 month pants which I had decided were too small for Theodore, which is why they had been set aside. He was none the wiser and was insistent that they were in his drawer (which they may have been) and so they were fair game.

One thing we've been really working hard on with Edwin is drilling arithmetic, something I would've never imagined doing with a child. But, it seems to be working. It's not fast, but it's not unbearably slow either. We worked anywhere between an hour and 4 hours a day this summer, and Edwin managed to learn his addition and multiplication tables. It took about 3 weeks to teach him 3x4=12, because his brain kept saying it was 7. (Yes, we probably tried something similar to whatever you are about to suggest. Remember, we spent 3 weeks on this.) He understood the concept, but he still couldn't believe it or apply it. We were staring to really get discouraged and frustrated. But suddenly, it was all ok.

It's my sincere hope that it won't be like this forever for him, and he seems to do surprisingly well with non-rote math. A recent homework included several 2x2 grids which required him to factor numbers (see below) and he just did them without hesitation. (Larger numbers were provided, but the smaller values had to be determined by the student.) He even seemed to like them!










Zachary is still enjoying his Spanish immersion and he is really into the Cub Scouts. It was his idea in the first place, since some of his classmates are in it. There seems to be a high proportion of Spanish immersion students in all sorts of extracurricular activities. He has been spending a bit of time with Dad in the basement working on things such as building and painting a birdhouse and painting his toy sailboat for the Raingutter Regatta which he won. (Video is online.)

We don't know exactly what's going on in Zachary's head about Santa this year. It was never my intention to play the Santa game, but when he was 3, he came home from daycare and told us all about Santa and it was clear we had to play along. We try to allow the evidence to speak for itself, even if we are stacking the evidence in Santa's favor. Recently, Zachary told me that he wasn't sure about Santa. Ok, I said, tell me what reasons you have for thinking Santa is real and what reasons you have for thinking he's not real”. And he thought about it, and then he concluded that Santa must be real. Because otherwise, the parents would have to wake up in the middle of the night, go shopping, come home and wrap all those presents, all without making a sound. And that's just not possible!

Theodore's speech is starting to blossom and he's quite amusing! He doesn't speak much at school, to the point that his teachers were concerned about a possible speech delay. However, this is not his behavior at home. This week, for example, he didn't want to say goodbye to his brothers at their school bus stop. I want to go on the bus. Theodore goes on the bus. I am NOT too LITTLE! He is extremely good at mimicry, and both of his brothers enjoy programminghim to say cute things. Edwin has had Theodore singing You better watch OUT...I'm telling you why...since November. Theodore also picked up Let it go from Disney's Frozen, and he loves singing it when he's sliding around in the bathtub after a shower, or on the living-room floor in his socks. It's hard to tell exactly what he understands, but he caught me wrapping presents and proclaimed Santa Claus is coming to town!”

I'll probably put a similar letter up online at and you can always see photos at and family videos at

Stay in touch!

Donna and Michael

Last Year's Letter is Here, and Please forgive the lack of quotes in the stories above. They were removed due to formatting issues I'm not planning on fixing.