Our family in 2014: Now with 33.3% more us

Colin, Susan, Dustin, and Fiona in front of East Pyne Hall on the campus of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 9 November 2014.
Colin, Susan, Dustin, and Fiona in front of East Pyne Hall on the campus of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, 9 November 2014.

Dear family and friends,

Our year got off to an interesting start when, on 2 January, Baby Brother made his appearance—ten days late, but one day before our scheduled induction, so we were perfectly happy. The night before we left the hospital, Fiona helped us decide on a name. We had waffled between Noah and Lachlan, but Fiona had settled on Lachlan months before little B.B. was born, in spite of Dustin and Susan wondering whether perhaps neither of those was the right name. When “Colin” popped into our heads on 3 January, we weren’t sure how Fiona would react. She had rejected every other name: “I like that name, but not for Baby Brother.” But when we asked what she thought about calling him Colin, she said she liked it. Susan asked if she would be sad, or if we should be sad, about not calling him Lachlan. Her response was unforgettable and applicable in so many situations: “Don’t be sad. Just be happy!”

So, Colin it was. We spent a lovely six weeks home together, all four of us, frequently snowed under by the polar vortex. Fortunately, we have a playground across the street, so Fiona could go trudge around and work off some energy when necessary. At the end of Susan’s maternity leave, we took Colin on his first overnight trip, first train trip, and first trip to the mainland: we spent the night in New Haven, Connecticut, where we ate pizza and watched Finding Nemo in our hotel. The next day we trudged around in a lot more snow and then headed home.

In the summer, we went “camping” for the first time as a family. Susan’s parents reserved cabins at Promised Land State Park in Pennsylvania and most of the family was able to spend a week together hiking, cooking over a campfire, swimming in the lake, and picking wild blueberries. Colin enjoyed eating the dirt and sitting in different people’s laps. On our last night in our cabin, Fiona told us that she didn’t want to live in New York City anymore; she wanted to live right there in that damp two-room cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, where she had no toys or videos and had to leave the house to use the bathroom. Those weren’t her exact words, but we found it immensely reassuring that she knew how to have a good time without having lots of stuff … especially since Susan had packed up the bulk of her toys and hidden them away before the trip, having come to a realization that she just doesn’t need most of them.

We spent much of the summer “de-junking” and “purging” our stuff. We have a long way to go, but we love the idea of living better with less. The other day, even Fiona said, “We have too much stuff.” We couldn’t be more proud.

This is a big year for Fiona, since in NYC basically all kids go to prekindergarten the year they turn 4. Picking a school is, shall we say, not a fun experience (don’t get us started). Fortunately, we found out through a neighborhood listserv about a school that seemed to be doing some great things, including music and art classes in all grades and a focus on the environment. They even have worm bins and a hydroponics lab! So we signed Fiona right up. Her first few days were a little difficult, but she absolutely loves it now. She recently mentioned a Spanish Christmas song that her music teacher taught them: “está Nobby-dog.”

This school year, Susan is teaching an AP class for the first time. It has certainly been a challenge, not least because she doesn’t necessarily know that much about European history, but compounded by the fact that none of her students has ever taken an AP class before and has certainly never done anything close to that difficult or time-consuming. She has, on many occasions, restrained herself from saying, “When I was your age ….” She remains convinced that one of these days, more than half of her students will actually do their reading.

Dustin, after creating a spreadsheet and crunching some numbers, determined that he is 90% of the way to reaching his goal of riding all 1,379.9 miles (2,220.7 kilometers) of rail in current passenger service in the New York City area. (In other words, he’s riding all the trains.) He discovered that, as far as he can tell, no one else has calculated that total, and, shockingly, no one has created an app to track one’s progress toward that goal. Not being an app writer himself, he instead wrote a blog post and added his spreadsheet, and now has a pen pal—someone else with the same goal, who was also looking for information on the total number of miles and stumbled upon Dustin’s blog.

And that pretty much sums up our year. We have some exciting plans in the works for 2015. In the meantime, we’re grateful for the year that we’ve had: a few downs, many ups, and a growing family that is happy and healthy. We hope 2014 has been as good to you as it has been to us and we hope that next year will be even better.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

With our love,
Susan, Dustin, Fiona, & Colin

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