Our annual Christmas letter, 2016

Christmas 2016
Susan and Dustin with Heath, Colin, and Fiona at the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, 8 December 2016. The Unisphere is 43 meters (140 feet) tall and was the centerpiece of the 1964–65 World’s Fair.

Dear everyone,

You may have noticed that this year, 2016, was a leap year. That means that, after eight years of marriage, we finally celebrated our second anniversary on 29 February. We like to do this with a low-key reprise of our wedding reception, complete with a “wedding cake” that Susan always expects to look really cool, but ends up being a Pinterest fail. Oh well, it was tasty, and we had a good time with some friends.

Over the summer, we went on The World’s Best Summer Vacation. It was a good thing, too, because that vacation was immediately preceded by The World’s Worst Move. We planned to put all our belongings into storage, then go on a road trip and spend a few weeks in Utah with Susan’s parents before coming back and finding a new apartment. Unfortunately, we seemed to have acquired far more stuff than we realized, even after (we thought) carefully controlling our possessions and (we thought) getting rid of a lot of unnecessary things. The overabundance of stuff, combined with a short time frame, exacerbated by awful heat and humidity, made for a pretty bad Fourth of July and an absolutely horrid Fifth. We don’t really care to repeat the gory details, but we’ll just say that a lot of that stuff never made it into the storage unit (which means it was left on the sidewalk instead).

We definitely learned a few things. One, we have too much stuff. Still. Two, we have some great friends who showed up in our hour of crisis and rescued a few important items, as well as soothed our wounded hearts and looked after our kids. Three, there are only a few really important things, and they aren’t things. As we drove away that night, about ten hours later than planned, we acknowledged that the only things that really mattered were right there in the car with us, buckled up safely.

Thus commenced the road trip. We slept in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Ann Arbor, on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and Naubinway, on the Upper Peninsula; Madison, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bismarck, North Dakota; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Cody and Pinedale, Wyoming. It was so relaxing that we just don’t quite know how to describe it. Spending time together, seeing the country together, “hoteling” together —including swimming, watching movies, and eating pizza—was a great bonding experience for all of us.

Our final destination was Salt Lake City, Utah, where Susan’s parents live. As nice as it was to be on the road, it was also rather nice to not have to pack a car every morning, and it was wonderful for Fiona, Colin, and Heath to be able to spend some extended time with their grandparents. It was the kind of summer little kids dream about—a wading pool, chalk, evening walks, bubbles, flying toys in the backyard, vintage toys.

Colin’s favorite memory was of Grammy and Papa’s apricot tree, which was full of ripe apricots for about a week after we got there. He learned to climb up on a chair, pick an apricot, break it open, throw away the pit, and eat it in two bites. He would then repeat this process about six times, twice a day.

Fiona took swimming lessons and spent a week at summer camp at Wheeler Farm, where Susan used to go to camp. Her favorite memory of Salt Lake was going up the canyon and roasting hot dogs and making s’mores.

Heath’s favorite memory is unclear, since he can’t talk, but Susan’s favorite memory on his behalf was on our last day there, when she carried him into a shop where we were meeting Grammy and Papa. Heath lunged out of her arms toward Grammy, overjoyed to see her again.

When we returned to New York, we spent some more time “hoteling” while we looked for a new apartment. We tried three different neighborhoods in three different boroughs and finally settled on Jackson Heights, Queens, which we are enjoying a lot. We hear all sorts of languages that we don’t recognize, and we can easily get Indian, Tibetan, Ecuadorian, Dominican, Japanese, Thai, Colombian, Peruvian, Lebanese, and Afghan food within a few blocks, along with some really great burgers. We haven’t tried them all, but we’re certainly planning to.

Now that we once again have a fixed address, we’re trying to get settled in as much as possible. Susan is still teaching 9th grade world history and AP European History, both of which offer challenges—some rewarding, some simply annoying. She tries to do some crafty things and just recently learned to darn the holes in one of Fiona’s sweaters. Dustin continues to juggle consulting work, an online shop, housework, and spending his days with Colin and Heath. His big accomplishment this year was finally reading the Harry Potter series, and he was glad to see his 34th, 35th, 36th, and 37th state capitols (those of Ohio, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota). He also finally finished riding all 1,380 miles (2,221 kilometers), by his calculation, of passenger rail in the New York City region. Fiona, now 6, is in first grade at a school down the block from Susan’s school, so they commute together each morning and afternoon. She loves math, superheroes, robots, and science shows on PBSKids.org. Colin, almost 3, still loves his trains, and spends at least an hour each day setting up and rearranging his train tracks. He is learning to talk and enjoys reporting on his activities and saying our family prayers. Heath, 1¼, learned to crawl about two days before we moved (not good timing), and is now practicing his unsupported standing skills. He giggles a lot, especially with his big brother and sister, who nearly always enjoy his company. He seems to share Colin’s interest in trains and planes.

This year, from celebrity deaths to social upheaval to the U.S. presidential election, has been tough on a lot of people, and we ourselves haven’t escaped entirely unscathed. While we would rather have avoided some of the trials, we’re glad for the lessons we’ve learned. We’ll see what 2017 brings—we suspect (and hope) it will be full of change (of the positive sort)!

Merry Christmas
& Happy New Year!

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

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