Dear family and friends,
Shortly after we sent our Christmas greeting to you last year, we found out another member would be joining our family. The capstone event for our family in 2015 occurred on Saturday, 12 September, just before midnight, when that new member of our family, a little boy named Heath, was born. Heath is one of the happiest, smiliest babies we’ve ever seen. He loves his big sister and big brother, and they adore him. Together, we’ve been experiencing the ups and downs of raising three kids in a small New York City apartment. Sometimes it’s tight, other times it’s cozy, but we’re always happy to be on this adventure together.
Fiona, who is now five, finished prekindergarten in June. She had a wonderful pre-k teacher, Ms. Gomez, and she learned so much. For her birthday in July, she had a combined party with her best friend, Robbie from church (who was also in her pre-k class), themed after their common love, Wild Kratts on PBS Kids. (Susan made an incredible tortuga cake for the occasion.) Now Fiona is in kindergarten, where she’s in New York City’s first Japanese dual-language program. She comes home singing Japanese children’s songs and anxious to show us Japanese alphabet videos on YouTube. She’s also in an afterschool program at her school where she gets to learn hip-hop and ballet dance as well as yoga and other fun things.
Colin, who turns two just after the new year, has never seen an animal he doesn’t love. He loves helping Mama and Daddy take care of his new baby brother. Especially if Heath needs soothing, Colin is right there putting a blanket on him, showing him one of his beloved stuffed animals, or rocking him. He also shrieks with excitement—we mean shrieks—every time he sees a machine that moves: a train, a bus, a delivery truck, a school bus, a backhoe, a bulldozer, a helicopter, an airplane, a taxi, a car. Needless to say, as we walk around New York City there is a lot of delight and shrieking. Lots and lots of shrieking. (We’re trying to help him learn to clap instead.)
Dustin continues to stay home with Colin and Heath during the day. Early in the year he had an opportunity to visit London and Paris with his mother. While in London he checked a major item off his bucket list: standing on the Prime Meridian—51°28′40.1″ north latitude, 0°0′0.0″ longitude*—at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. (Remember: Dustin has always been a geography geek.) Throughout the year he has also been working with a group that brought an original 1215 copy (800 years old!) of Magna Carta from Durham Cathedral in the United Kingdom on a traveling exhibition across Canada. Dustin’s design of an 800th anniversary print of Magna Carta was displayed and sold in museums that hosted the exhibition in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Edmonton and was even presented to all 87 members of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.
Susan is delighted finally to have a proper workshop housing her sewing machine and other craft tools—the result of long hours of sorting through our things, getting rid of all but the most essential and important items, and installing shelves and lighting. She continues to impress everyone with her sewing and other talents. The Halloween costume she made for Heath (he was—what else?—a Heath bar) was a real winner.
While Heath’s arrival has been our family’s biggest adventure this year, we’ve also had lots of other adventures as a family. In July we took a trip that we called Around the Sound, because it took us all the way around Long Island Sound by train and ferry. Not only did it help Dustin achieve his goal of riding the entire Long Island Rail Road when we arrived at Greenport, Long Island, but it was also a practice run for our biggest adventure this year: a trip to Canada’s Maritime provinces and Québec.
This trip started off with a train ride to Portland, Maine, via Boston—Colin’s first trip on Amtrak. After a night and a day in Portland, where we had some of the best pizza we’ve had in a long time (Portland Pie Company—we highly recommend it), we boarded a ferry and took an overnight cruise to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. There we picked up a rental car and took a road trip through Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. In New Brunswick we were able to check another item off our bucket list: visiting the Hopewell Rocks to see the world’s highest tides, on the Bay of Fundy. We drove back to Nova Scotia, where we boarded VIA Rail Canada’s The Ocean, one of the world’s storied train journeys. We had two cozy cabins to ourselves, along with access to a dome car where we spent long hours watching the scenery pass by. It was about a 24-hour journey to Montréal, where we stayed for four nights in a beautiful apartment just outside of centre-ville before taking Amtrak’s Adirondack—another incredible train route, right along the shores of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River—back to New York City.
Other adventures this year have included a trip on Amtrak’s Acela—America’s fastest train—to Washington, D.C., with Grammy and Papa to introduce Heath to family members. We also took a road trip to Binghamton, New York, and northern Pennsylvania, where we saw some incredible fall scenery and visited the newly restored and dedicated Priesthood Restoration Site. On Thanksgiving, Dustin and Colin woke up early and got a prime spot on Sixth Avenue across from Rockefeller Center in Manhattan to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Colin soaked up every minute of it.
Through all the ups and downs of this year (yes, there were plenty of downs and worries and stress, too), we’ve been grateful to have all of our needs met as well as a few of our wants. Above all, we’ve been grateful to share this year with each other—and with you. We are blessed to count you among our family and friends, and we hope to see each of you in New York soon. In the meantime, our best wishes for a very merry Christmas. We hope that 2015 has been as good to you as it has been to us and that next year will be even better.
With our love,
Susan, Dustin, Fiona, Colin, & Heath
*OK, so technically the present Prime Meridian is 102 meters (334 feet 7¾ inches) to the east of the marker. But who’s counting?