Season’s Greetings from the Stutz Family

This year finds our family for a third year in Belgrade, Serbia. Dave and Susan are teaching at the International School of Belgrade and Breck and Alea are active students in the same school.

Breck has had a fabulous year – and who can wonder why when his outstanding kindergarten teacher decided to loop with the class to 1st grade? Ms. Marvel is his heroine and mentor and has provided him with an exceptional education. Breck loves computers, writing and PE. He is also a super reader and enjoys books about animals, volcanoes, outer space and dinosaurs. He loves Legos and can build anything out of blocks. His room is a whirlwind of construction. He enjoys his after school activity – Little Lab Coats – and insists on repeating every experiment they do at school with his sister, mom and dad at home. Last week we stuck a raw egg in vinegar for a week and watched it go rubbery. The week before we blew up an orange in a ziplock bag with vinegar and soda. And next week, the finale – a volcano!

Alea is in 3rd grade and enjoys having lots of girls in her class. The past few years had been hard because there weren’t many girls, but now the class is half and half and Alea is thrilled to be socializing. She has friends from Britain, Holland, USA, France, Japan, and Serbia. She is a wonderful artist and spends much of her time illustrating her stories. Her favorite subject in school is her PYP unit (the school is undergoing authorization with the IBO - International Baccalaureate Organization - and the PYP units, so far, have been inquiries into family history, peace and fair trade). Her after school activities are arts and crafts and modern dance. The modern dance troupe will perform for the ISB holiday show and she has also been invited to sing for the US Ambassador’s holiday party. She enjoys reading non-fiction and has been really interested in WWII and the Holocaust since she discovered the Diary of Anne Frank in her classroom. Mom is not sure what she thinks about this at her age, but it cannot be denied we have had some extremely thoughtful conversations!

Susan continues to thoroughly enjoy her work with four year olds. While this is her third year with this age group at this school, it is never boring or routine. Her kids always do something amazing to keep her on her toes and she continues to be amazed at the amount of learning one child can do in one year at this age. She still serves on curriculum council and also chairs the Year of the Reader Committee. She organized an author’s visit, open library and book swap event at the school last weekend and was really pleased at the community turn-out and the student response to a real author; they were attentive listeners and asked super questions. She also sponsored a mother/daughter book club for third grade (Laura Ingalls Wilder) and had a super time with Alea and other readers; they even made a book club quilt!

Dave continues to learn more and more about his new administrative position at the middle school. Juggling running the school, meetings, 3 classes of math, event chaperoning, never-ceasing lightsaber-karate-wrestling battles with Breck, reading-illustrating-cuddling with Alea, and a few minutes to hang out with his wife leaves him very little time to play on the computer. That's ok, though, since Alea and Breck are learning so much about it there's hardly a time when it is free any more! He has gotten into photography lately, and wishes that there was about 5 times as much wall space to display all the great pictures he thinks he's taken. Susan’s glad there isn’t…

Family highlights…

We drove to Vienna, Austria last year for the holidays, so Christmas day ‘05 found us there. We were thoroughly impressed with Ljubljana, Slovenia, as we passed through and vowed to return. We happily swam away hours in a heated pool in Bled, Slovenia and enjoyed the experience of swimming in a hot tub outdoors!

Susan’s brothers and their wives came to visit in April, so we did the Belgrade and environs tour before heading to Ljubljana, Skojcan caves, Predjamski Castle and the Croatian coast. Istria was amazing and the coliseum in Pula absolutely stunning. We are so pleased to be able to host family. It worked out well to be able to do things together, yet still have time to cruise areas of interest; after Istria, Mark and Jennifer continued on to Budapest, Bled, Vienna and Prague and Bill and Nancy did Venice, northern Slovenia, Czech Republic and Prague.

June brought us back to the USA for a summer of family and swimming lessons. Dave spent all summer in Montana scouting for property. Susan and the kids spent two weeks with him there and the rest of the time in MN. We canoed in to the BWCAW and spent a wonderful four days there. The kids also spent a ton of time in pools and lakes and are now thoroughly competent swimmers. Breck did coach-pitch baseball and loved it as much as last summer! We also had a fun shower for Bill and Nancy to help prepare for the arrival of son Jonas and daughter Ana. Dave did find the perfect property and we are now the proud owners of 25 acres near Helena, Montana. News about building and development will, I am sure, occupy the next four holiday letters:)

School began again in August. Shortly after, Susan’s colleague Vicky had a beautiful baby boy, her principal had a beautiful baby girl, her other colleague a beautiful baby girl, another colleague a beautiful baby girl and yet another colleague a beautiful baby boy. Another two boys are expected in two months! Thankfully, none of these are Susan’s!

We went to northern Croatia for a long October weekend break; a fabulous four days of family fun. Dave and Susan escaped to Dubrovnik, Croatia for a parents’ getaway in November, and December finds us contemplating a trip to Istanbul, Turkey.

Favorites, anyone??

We are blessed as a family and wish one and all a wonderful new year and happy holiday season. Dave, Susan, Alea and Breck