Our annual holiday letter, 2012

We took this photo in the Borough Hall subway station in downtown Brooklyn on Sunday, 9 December 2012. Fiona was remarkably cooperative (relative to her normal behavior when she sees a camera).
We took this photo in the Borough Hall subway station in downtown Brooklyn on Sunday, 9 December 2012. Fiona was remarkably cooperative (relative to her normal behavior when she sees a camera).
NEW YORK • DECEMBER 2012

Dear family and friends,

TWENTY TWELVE began on a dour note for Dustin. It wasn’t because he turned 30 nine days into the new year, but rather because he realized that he now looks like he’s 30.

Fortunately, February proved to be a lot brighter. This year was a leap year, which meant that we got to celebrate our real wedding anniversary for the first time ever. We started a tradition of throwing a party for our friends in the years we can celebrate our actual anniversary of 29 February. For the occasion, Susan made a beautiful two-tier wedding cake, and we saved the top tier to eat one year later, on our fifth anniversary.

Since our first official wedding anniversary closely followed a milestone birthday for Dustin, we decided we should celebrate in a big way. Which we did—in Iceland. Fiona’s first trip abroad was certainly one to remember (too bad she probably won’t). We saw geysers—including Geysir, the first one known to Europeans and the source of the English word—waterfalls, fjords, and other amazing scenery. We floated in the geothermal salt water of the Blue Lagoon. And we saw killer and humpback whales on a whale-watching tour, which also taught us that seasick people really do turn green, just like in old cartoons. (If you are ever offered free seasickness pills on a boat ride, please accept our advice and take them!)

For spring break, we decided to return to our old stomping grounds in Washington, D.C. Fiona had a great time hunting for Easter eggs on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. She also had fun visiting the National Capital Trolley Museum and the National Zoo and seeing her aunt and uncle and cousins and her Nana, Randy, and her other aunt.

On 15 July, Fiona reached a milestone herself: her second birthday. In 2011, for Fiona’s first birthday, we started a tradition of taking her to the beach (one of the advantages of having a birthday smack dab in the middle of summer, unlike Susan and Dustin). But this time our trip to the beach was completely free, courtesy of Google Wallet. All we had to do was watch a quick 30-second demonstration of the app at Penn Station and they gave us free tickets on a chartered express train that went straight to Long Branch, New Jersey, complete with free snacks, drinks, beach balls, and sunglasses. We all brought home great memories—and the gift of sunburn. Well, it was mostly just Susan and Dustin who brought that gift home.

In August, Fiona began a new adventure: school. It was a little scary and sad at first being away from Mama and Daddy, but Fiona has really enjoyed making new friends and learning lots of new things. She goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays to a preschool a few blocks from our house. Fiona has even been on a couple of field trips to the farm and visiting bakeries around Brooklyn. These trips are especially fun because she gets to ride in a school bus and Daddy gets to come along.

For the second year in a row, the weekend before Halloween came with weird weather. Last year it was a freak snowstorm—the only significant snow we got all season. This year it was more tropical in nature: a hurricane. Here in Bushwick, Brooklyn, we are away from the coast and were virtually unscathed by Sandy; we never lost power or even Internet. It has saddened us to see all the destruction in the city and places we have come to love, from the Rockaways in Queens to the beautiful train station in Hoboken, New Jersey. But we have also had several opportunities to go to hard-hit areas and help in the cleanup, and we have been amazed by the strength and resilience of this city and its people in coming together, helping each other out, and getting back on their feet.

We, like many others, were anxious for the 2012 election to be over. But, unlike many others, our reason is that we had tickets to go see The Colbert Report live at 11.30pm on election night. We figured that, whoever won the presidential race, we could either celebrate or commiserate with Stephen Colbert. We also figured that was our one opportunity to see Colbert and we weren’t going to miss out on it. So Dustin got there at 5.45pm—a full four hours before the cutoff for getting in line—and ended up being first in line. We’re not really sure why, but a staff member gave us a special ticket which allowed us to sit front and center on the first row. It was an awesome experience.

A few weeks ago, one of Susan’s classes decided they wanted to help the victims of hurricane Sandy. Their first idea—to take a field trip to help out with the cleanup—was sure to be shot down by the school administration. So they came up with another idea: making hats, scarves, and mittens to help hurricane victims as the cold weather approached. After brainstorming how to make all these things, they decided the easiest way would be to make them out of fleece. Then the issue became how to pay for all that fleece. The principal said the school would match whatever money they could raise. And the students decided the best way to raise money was through a bake sale. That was a Monday, and at the bake sale that Wednesday they raised $232. Matched by the school it came to $464, which buys a lot of fleece (71 pounds/32 kilograms, in fact). Now they are busy making hundreds of items to help out hurricane victims, all on their own initiative.

We hope 2012 has been as good to you as it has been to us and that 2013 will be even better. We have enjoyed the stream of guests in our home in the past year and once again extend an invitation to all of you to stop by if you ever find yourselves in New York. We wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy new year.

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