Dear family:

I am taking advantage of a quiet interlude here to get back into family letter writing mode. Some of the big holiday projects are completed Ė the Christmas letter, Momís birthday calendar, taking down the decorations Ė and we have crossed the hurdle of returning to school. Although I love the holidays, I also love the feeling of winding up to hoopla and simplifying our lives. There are still lingering holiday items to do, such as finishing eating some of the goodies, reading all the Christmas letters we receive and put in a box for January, and I know we have thank you notes outstanding. I was very pleased that yesterday we made our first and only batch of Christmas cookies Ė fulfilling a promise to Stephen that took longer than expected to accomplish! In fact, we have a gingerbread house kit that is still waiting for the right moment of creative energy.

Otherwise, we seem to be spending a lot of time with medical errands, even though we are healthy. The paper has had front-page news about the flu epidemic, but so far we have been spared anything major. Benjamin has a cold, and that is a nuisance because he is profligate with Kleenex, so Kleenex has become a major budget item. The cold has made him whinier than usual, and clingy, but at this time of year it is easier to accommodate him. Iím so grateful we made it through December in good health. Anyway, the reason for the medical errands has been TEETH! It began with Daniel getting his wisdom teeth removed because they were impacted. Fortunately, he only had three wisdom teeth so we saved a little money and he was spared surgery in all four corners. Then it was time for the whole familyís biannual visit to the dentist. All seven of us, one after the other, fill up the dayís schedule for them. Peter had a stubborn baby tooth extracted. Then he, Stephen, and Chris had orthodontist appointments, which concluded with the news that Peter is having bands put on this week since his tooth has moved out of place. Iím sure this was discouraging news to him (having been through braces before) and an embarrassment to the doctor who had even presented his work on Peter at a medical conference. Daniel has follow-up with the oral surgeon this week, and we have also had two trips to the ophthalmologist and will need to see the optician before he returns to school. Chris has to make a return trip to the dentist. What was I thinking when I had all these children!! As I said, it is a good thing we are healthy, because there would be no time left to care for sickness!

Daniel is working at KFC for these two weeks in a frantic attempt to earn enough money for this semesterís books. We keep him busy in his free hours doing errands, and it has been nice to have him around. He and Peter have been working on a major computer project. I donít fully understand what they are up to, and I suspect that they donít fully understand themselves. One end result is supposed to be that I have a faster computer (the one I use is the bottom of the family computer ladder) but right now it is not working at all, which has naturally tempered my gratitude for their solicitude. Daniel came through the oral surgery wonderfully, by the way. He has had a few social outings with high school friends, and Michael Carter came for the much-anticipated (and for them, disappointing) New Yearís weekend. He reached the milestone of attending the wedding of a peer (Becky Fletcher) for the first time. And we are spoiling him by meeting, as much as possible, his menu requests to compensate for cafeteria food.

In spite of the fact that this has been a very demanding year academically for Peter, in part because he has an extra course load, we have given him the option of joining other homeschoolers in a ski class/field day once a week for the next six weeks. It is good for him to get outdoors and it is good that I am not there to see him risk life and limb. We signed up for family ice skating lessons at the city rink again this year for additional exercise. [However, having seen what Mom is going through with a broken ankle, I am having a much harder time not being frightened by the whole experience. I have no intention of leaving the baby class, even when Ben does.]

Christopher received an early birthday present today. We saw in the paper that one of his favorite British authors, Brian Jacques, would be at a local store for a book signing to coincide with the release of his latest Redwall novel. So we purchased the book (Christopher has been slowly accumulating his series in hardcover Ė unfortunately, there are ten books and counting in the series so far) and Chris joined the mob scene to get his copy signed. He lost his nerve at the crucial moment to ask some of the questions he had for Mr. Jacques but it was a memory to see a flesh and blood hero face to face. Yesterday we joined a crowd of Lehigh international students for an afternoon of ice skating and then supper at Calvary Baptist. Christopher struck up a friendship with the cutest little Chinese boy (18 mos.) and even exchanged address information in the hopes they can get together again. He is developing an extensive collection of international children in his train.

We were discussing the sermon one Sunday after church, about using our talents, and Stephen announced that the only talent he had was being double-jointed. He is the most reluctant of the boys to see school start up again. After all, we didnít even get any snow yet! There is forecast for snow this week, and it will take vigilance to keep Stephen at his desk if it is good sledding snow. He is becoming a real wheeler-dealer, trading Christmas chocolates with nuts (which he doesnít like) for stuff he does. It didnít take him long to learn that I am an easy target since I have a weakness for chocolates with nuts!

David came to bed very late one night saying he was tired out but the good news was that he had cleared most of his desk. The next day I discovered this was something of an exaggeration Ė his desk looks just as covered as ever to me. I think he must have just been having a good dream. One of the things on his desk is a pile of papers from his biology students, and he has been reading and reading their research on red and green algae, etc. (Meanwhile, I am delighting in my Christmas books!) Also on his desk is a preserved earthworm, crayfish, fish, and frog; he is preparing to teach a dissection lab. Eeeek! as Auntie Doris would say. We have been picking up Lehigh students at the airport, so this week begins the new semester of Bible studies there. We did have a night out together to see Anna and the King, which we both enjoyed Ė especially the lush photography. The movie indirectly implies that Christianity is inadequate, and Buddhism is elevated to being more (though not completely) satisfying in dealing with lifeís contradictions, but I thought the characters were more complex and therefore more interesting and believable than previous versions of the story.

That brings you up to date with our goings-on, more or less. We hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits...



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