Merry Christmas to all -

Dave and I have decided to forward the majority of our holiday greetings via e-mail this year. Since we have such a huge event happening just weeks AFTER the holidays, we saw no reason to send out two mass mailings. So we'll fill you in on life in general with this wonderful form of correspondence - the form letter - and then when we become a foursome in mid-January, we'll mail out a family photo and personal notes. (meanwhile, says Dave, I'll write my comments in blue as I proofread Susan's work. I'm going to try to insert some links in green to pictures of interest and neat things like that. Of course, you know that our home page is always available, as is a copy of this letter…)

I'll preface this note with the following: Dave and Alea are out at the kitchen table right now. They are finger painting - so I may have to dash off to do a rescue mission at any moment. Pardon any random thoughts that interject themselves into this greeting as I ponder the mess they are making of my home… (whatever)

Let me start back in January and fill everyone in on the wonderful events of 1998. Dave and I celebrated our First wedding anniversary on January 4. We went out to dinner at a terrific Greek place in Ann Arbor with our beautiful (and just walking) daughter. As Dave snarfed his meal, I ran shotgun around the restaurant saving other diners from my offspring. Then I sat and wolfed down my gyros as Dave changed a poopy. Welcome to married bliss.

Spring brought us out as a family in force. We were so fortunate to have wonderful friends in Ann Arbor: We spent many weekends walking downtown with them and picnicking in our back yard (Lene and Jesper and Marc and Mindy - you know who you are!!). May was the highlight as Dave received his Master of Arts from the University of Michigan. Alea and I threw a huge party for him and squeaked over thirty friends and colleagues into our home to celebrate. What a fantastic weekend.

The summer flew by as we visited family and friends in Minnesota, Utah and Wyoming. We settled in Kenosha, WI in August after Dave accepted a position teaching at a new high school in the area. We have been setting roots since. Dave loves - and I stress loves - his new work and I am so proud to see him flourish as an educator. He is so dedicated, enthusiastic and progressive. The school is unlike most traditional high schools - but I'll let him go in to more detail there… I am doing the quintessential June Cleaver thing. I am home with Alea and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our second child. Alea and I play a lot, read a lot, go to a lot of play groups with other moms and dads and run around about town doing the library/museum/park thing. Alea loves to bake and cook and clean (really!) and is a huge help to her mom as she toddles around after me doing everything I do - and then some. Mom has figured out nap time is the best time to REALLY get anything done.

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(She just dropped in to say hi and forward her own Christmas hello). We've had some big language milestones lately. 'Booger bubbles' is a new one since she's just come down with a cold. She loves to scream out "Daddy pee" in any public restroom to which you take her. Daddy had to take drastic measures the other night to distract her from opening gifts under the tree and told her that 'more presents' was really 'more butt cheeks' - which she enthusiastically chimed the rest of the evening. "Dead meow" is another favorite - but I'll let Dave tell you about that one. Lest you think we are warping our daughter - we have other fantastic milestones to report - and this at 18 months!! She can count to three (and GETS it) and knows her ABC's (well, at least she knows that letters are 'ABC's"). She thinks numbers are ABC's, too, but I won't complain at this point! She can read 'Bears on Wheels' by the Berensteins and is an accomplished walker backer. She also figured out - all by herself - how to express EXTREME displeasure at something. She'll say ' many many no' if she doesn't want to do something we ask her to (like stop throwing peas across the room). So life with her is a joy and I don't know whether to panic about January or be relieved to have a new distraction for her. She got a doll from Grandma for Christmas and is really really into caring for it. She also is doing the self help stuff - washing herself, brushing her teeth, putting on deodorant, shaving with Daddy, smearing lotion all over herself and the bathroom mirror…So we're confident she'll be a huge help with the new additionJ

And that brings us to December and the countdown to number 2. We have been so fortunate to find two wonderful midwives who will help us have another home birth. Alea's birth was such an exceptional experience. We are overjoyed to be able to plan another arrival in the comfort of our home. We do not know what gender baby is this time around - so everyone can guess where I'LL look first! We are at 35 weeks right now. At our last prenatal, baby's heart paced in at 128 (it's been consistently in the 120's - I hope that means a nice mellow baby!). My tummy measures 34 cm - perfect - and all routine tests were AOK.

I usually enjoy throwing in a few political comments as I wrap up another year - but I am so disgusted by everything that is going on in the beltway right now that I'll just say 'jesse the body - let's really give them something to talk about'.

So with that I'll sign off and wish everyone a very merry holiday. We'll be in touch again very soon as we proudly announce the arrival of our baby. Keep your eyes and ears posted!! Love and hugs to all. SUSAN

So now it's my turn to add my own comments (besides the ones I made above). Well, as Susan said, it has certainly been a full year for me and us. Finishing up at the U of M (I finally got my diploma last month) was a hassle, as was getting the job thing all set up, but we are finally in town and off to the races. The day I was planning to accept the job, I got an invitation from some friends to go work in Kuwait, so hopefully we'll be able to keep that option open.

The school I'm teaching at is brand new, with an 'integrated' approach to teaching: everything I do in social studies pertains to the math/science/English classes they're taking and vice versa. The focus is on technology, and you are certainly welcome to check out what my class is up to as the year progresses. There's quite a bit of extra planning that takes place to coordinate all that as well as basically setting up a new system, so I do manage to keep myself very busy (in addition to the regular grading and babysitting of 180 freshmen!). Compared with my schedule from last year, however, this is a real blessing in terms of time I get to spend with Susan and Alea. It is such a joy to watch her grow up, discover life, and learn to appreciate the world around her; and Alea is quite a handful as well!!

Well, since I've already wasted so much time trying to make the format of this all nice and pretty, I'll sign off now and try to mail this to you all. Have a wonderful holiday season and send us a little ho-ho-ho when you get a chance.