Dear friends, family and people who find us from random Google searches,
Christmas letters are a fun way for me to look back at the past year and remember all that transpired.
It's crazy to look back and see how much things have changed in just one year... but we've gotten used to change. (Does anyone remember watching Wayne's World... when Garth said "we fear change"? Hah... funny flashback).
OK, I hope you enjoy this trip through memory lane as I reminisce all the wacky and exciting things that happened in 2006 with our family.
If you were lucky enough to get a Christmas Card from us, you'll find answers to our Christmas Card Crossword Puzzle in CAPS throughout this letter.
As an internet marketer, I've gotten used to writing one-page sales letters with headlines, links, and calls to action... so, the rest of this letter is going to look a lot like my websites (and if you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD, be sure to check out www.refluxremedy.com!!)
Let's start in January...
SISTER CHANGES LAST NAME
January's most memorable moment was the wedding of my little sister Annie, to her "knight in shining armor", Jack Long.
They were married in Pine City, MN, on a crisp winter's day, and everything was beautiful.
Carson was one of three lucky boys who got to be a ring bearer. He was lucky for three reasons: 1) he got to pull a cute flower girl in a sleigh down the aisle, 2) he got to keep his new TUXEDO, which he loves to wear to church (it's his favorite Sunday outfit), and 3) he got to play with his cousins and new friends.
Amanda & I were in the wedding, too. We got to walk down the aisle all over again! We also sang a song "You Raise Me Up", which was fun for us.
A few months later, Jack & Annie announced that they were expecting a baby! She went through a couple months of bed rest, but now everything is going great, and they're anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby Gracie any day now!
CALIFORNIA COUPLE LEAVES
Also in January, Amanda & I went to California to help our new pastor Jim Kang and his wife Eun Ah move from Los Angeles to Luverne. We had a great time as we drove through Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Wamsutter (never heard of it? ... probably means you haven't stayed at the luxury hotel there either:) ), and eventually Luverne. We learned that Amanda is a talented NASCAR driver who artfully imprints the icy roads with figure eights in style!
What Does NERTS Stand For Anyway?
(By the way... I'm able to remember our year's events only by going back through our pictures, which my wife has organized so well... otherwise, I'd probably never remember what we did all year, unless it involved extreme pain or joy :)
In February, our most memorable moments came at a "Nerts Party" we had, which was actually a going away party for our friends John & Amy Chartier.
By the way... a quick Google search for "Nerts" came up with this:
"Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams"
I highly doubt that's how the game got its name... but then again, if you play at such an intense pace as we did that night, you might need some emergency response teams to be standing by! Thankfully, nobody was injured during our games of Nerts.
REUSP443 MAKES IT OFFICIAL...
In March, we traveled to the Twin Cities for Amanda's brother Brian and his new bride Sherry's wedding reception. They were married the previous October in Jamaica (ya mon), and wanted to share their excitement with their friends and family. The boys enjoyed trying out some dance moves, as did Amanda & I (we started taking some dancing lessons this year at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Rochester).
CALLING ALL SHEEP! BAAAAAAAH
Also in March, I had the chance to fly out to Los Angeles with Pastor Jim and my friends Joel (please pray for him as he's going through chemo right now for the third time) and Andrew from church. We went to Shepherds Conference, which is a 4-day intensive conference for church leaders. There were a lot of great preachers and pastors there who preached awesome messages, including John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Steve Lawson, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney and Albert Mohler. We also enjoyed visiting various places around the city with Jim as our tour guide, including eating sushi and Korean barbeque. We also visited the Ronald Reagan Library and saw his Air Force One. Sweeeeeet! I could see myself being president someday... not!
BRAINERD IS NOT FOR NERDS!
For Easter break this year, we joined up with Amanda's parents and her sister Sheila's family at Breezy Point in Brainerd, MN. We had a fun time fishing off the dock, giving them dancing lessons, going golfing, and having an Easter egg hunt! Carson won the grand prize by finding the golden egg (with a little help from his Grandma Nae), so he took home the big Easter basket filled with all sorts of goodies!
There was also an awesome restaurant we found in Pequot Lakes, which had the world's best non-homemade meatloaf.
Later in April Amanda hit the big 3-0! I was able to surprise her with a party at Minerva's (thanks Todd and Barbie for helping me pull it off). The boys and I treated her to a weekend off in the Cities with her good friend Jen.
ISAIAH 51:4 - Hearken Unto Me, My People!
Later in April, Isaiah turned 2. He's a fun little boy that we like to spoil since he's our "baby". He and Amanda like to take a NAP together as often as they can. He also loves to say "STOP IT", and often times you'll find him rummaging through the cupboards looking for OREOS. :) His vocabulary has been growing rapidly the past few months - he's got a cute voice. Amanda is also very thankful that Isaiah is now POTTYTRAINED - so no more diapers! Yippee!!
THE BIG CHANGE...
May was our biggest month of change by far. For many months I had been considering the tax advantages of moving down the road 10 miles to South Dakota, which doesn't have an income tax. But we loved our home in Luverne... and it was nice being close to friends and Amanda's family. We also loved Anders' school, his friends there, teachers, and the principal.
After a lot of contemplation, analyzing, praying, and wrestling with the idea, we decided to buy a house southeast of Brandon, SD. It is a beautiful home with a lot of privacy and room for the boys to explore. God also seemed to be affirming all these weird "fleeces" we'd set out.
In the end, we ended up moving to Brandon (48283 264th St, Brandon, SD 57005), Amanda's parents moved back out to the farm, and now when we go back to Grandma & Grandpa's house, we get to visit our old house, too! The boys have adjusted well to the Brandon District at Valley Springs Elementary. We appreciate their teachers and the small school environment.
CHICAGO TRIP... IN RECORD SPEED!
June was a fun month as I was able to go on a mini-vacation to Chicago with my Dad, Anders, and Sedric. We started off in Austin, MN at the Spam Museum. That's the town my Dad was born in, so it was fun to be with him as he remembered things gone by. We also found his uncle's name engraved on a War Memorial. Then, we headed out to Chicago for a quick trip to watch a baseball game, do some sightseeing, and visit with a few old friends.
My good friend from college, Lemuel McDermott, lives in Chicago... so we picked him up and hung out with him for a couple hours. He showed us how to ride the train, and took it downtown Chicago. On our way to the Navy Pier, we stopped in Nordstrom's to see if my old childhood neighbor friend, Amy Krzyska, happened to work there (I wasn't sure which store she worked in...). Low and behold, we found her! She works in the cosmetics department and it was fun catching up with her since we hadn't seen each other for many years.
Then we went to a crazy kids maze on the Navy Pier, which wasn't all they hyped it up to be... but the boys loved it. We ended our time with Lem by eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Then we went up in the John Hancock tower, which was over 100 stories high... and the boys loved it. We saw a helicopter hovering outside the window, and after a minute it took off sideways and descended down over the lake. Very cool!
After that, we hopped back on the train and headed to the White Sox game. They were playing the Cardinals (who eventually won the World Series this year), so we knew we were going to see a good game. The atmosphere of an outdoor baseball game is second to none! I can't wait until the Twins finally get back to playing outside again. Anyway, the game was a blast! The Sox won 20-6! It seemed like every other batter hit a home run. And, keeping up with the Bob'sTradition, we left after the 7th inning stretch :) It was a great time, but we had a long day and were all ready to go by then!
That was pretty much the extent of our trip. We drove to Milwaukee that night, and got home the next day.
CROSSING THE BORDER... AND A FISHING TRIP
We moved across the border on July 10th. A week later Anders celebrated his 8th birthday and invited all his friends from his old class. They all dressed up like Army Rangers and had water balloon fights.
Later in the month Uncle Brian took Anders, Sed, me and Grandpa Jerry on a fishing trip in northern Minnesota, right next to the BWCA. We all appreciated the option to use a motor. We had good weather and caught a few fish to boot! Camping was fun and we hope to do it again next summer!
LAST MONTH BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS...
In August, we all took a trip up to the U.P. to see Jeff & Sheila Mott, and their daughter Madora. It's about a 10 hour drive, so we took our time. On the way there, we stopped by Hayward, Wisconsin, and visited the National Fishing Hall of Fame. We had a good time visiting the Mott's and seeing the progress on their log home. We also went up to Marquette and hung out on the beach of Lake Superior... from an angle we'd never seen it from before. The rocks along the beach were very cool, like nothing I'd seen before.
Then, on our way home, we went through Green Bay and took a quick tour of Lambeau Field (so we could see where the Vikings beat up the Packers every year :) They certainly do have a lot of history behind that team... it was quite impressive to see the stadium and all the fun things they had to do inside. Hopefully someday soon the Vikes will pull their heads out of the mud and do something even better!
Before August was over, Amanda & I went rock climbing! On real rocks! It was a blast. At first, I was frustrated because I couldn't climb more than about 10 feet. I got stuck. But then, I tried a different route, with the help of our instructor, and made it all the way up! Amanda is a much better climber than me, so if you want lessons - talk to her! We climbed at the Palisades State Park in Garretson, SD. Definitely something I'd like to do again. It's quite a workout, too! Using muscles you never thought you had!
Towards the end of August, Amanda directed the VBS program at church, and she did a great job. We helped teach the kids about creation this year, and I got to dress up and act on stage as "Doc". Our friend AK was my arch nemesis, Dr Darwinsangenheimerschmidt, and our friend Jody made her own dinosaur costume and impressed all the kids with her acting as "Perry"... and she was 7 months pregnant! Way to go Jody!
On the 31st of August, Amanda & I celebrated TEN years of marriage! We're planning to go to Hawaii in February 2007 to celebrate... we're looking forward to getting away alone together and having some stress-free fun (hopefully!). Prime time whale watching season, which sounds like a blast!
NEW SCHOOL, NEW FEARS, NEW FRIENDS
At the end of August, Sedric and Anders started school at Valley Springs Elementary! Sedric is in Kindergarten and has made a lot of new friends. He really likes his teacher, Ms. Ernste, and he's doing very well in school. He's already taught himself how to read at a basic level, and he's a whiz at math. One day, when his teacher stepped out of the classroom to talk with someone in the hall, she left Sed in charge to help some students... and he stepped right in. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being a teacher someday.
Anders had a bit more of a struggle adjusting to his new school. He was a little afraid of being the new kid, and was hesitant at first. But he's got a great teacher, Mrs. Logan, and he's made friends easily. His best friend is Rigg (named after a truck... his younger brother's name is Rim). Anders is also doing very well in school, and has really accelerated his reading using the AR program at school. He is a lot like me in regards to using computer tools to enhance his learning. It's been fun seeing his rapid progress, especially since last year he had very little desire to read independently. He still misses his friends at Hills Beaver Creek Elementary, but he was able to spend a half-day with them on a day when he didn't have school.
Amanda was able to hook up with a Mom's In Touch group for the Brandon District and also started a night group. I think she enjoys the break from the boys and as long as she's praying for all of us, I'm all for it!
101 WAYS TO BREAK YOUR PINKY,
Boy, August was a BUSY month!! Anders was in Luverne at Grandma Nae's house, and he & his brothers were playing on a Slip-N-Slide in her backyard. Somehow, Anders got his PINKY caught in a tear in the yellow slide of pain and fractured his pinky right near the growth plate. At first we just thought it was sprained, but as he continued to complain about it hurting, we hauled him into the ER for x-rays. Sure enough, it was fractured. The orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery to put pins in place so it would heal properly, otherwise his pinky would've been crooked for the rest of his life. It was a pretty fun experience overall, as Anders got to wear a cast around school for the first month of school and in some ways helped make his school transition a little easier. When they yanked the pins out of his finger, I was so proud because he didn't even cry! He then took the pins to school and had a great show & tell session with his classmates.
R & R
September was a month where we finally got to slow down and rest a bit. We didn't really go anywhere or do anything out of the ordinary. Amanda especially appreciated the break, and apparently she's ready for another break, since that's what she wants for Christmas! (DAY OFF).
WHO'S AFRAID OF THE GREAT WOLF!
In October, we took a mini-road trip over to the Wisconsin Dells with our good friends the Hood's. There's a huge indoor water park called "The Great Wolf" right off I-90, so we stayed there for a couple nights and had a blast. The Hood family has been a blessing to us this year, as we've gotten to know them a lot better since we moved to Brandon, which is where they live as well. Chris is did our landscaping in Luverne. We also had him do a couple small projects at our new home, including a Japanese style water feature, some flagstone steppers out back, and some boulders near our driveway entry.
Mid-October the Reu daughters and daughter-in-laws celebrated Renae's birthday with a spa day. They had fun getting pedicures and brought pictures home to try to see if we guys could guess our woman's foot . . . Brian and I did alright. . .
LOOK OUT, WAYNE GRETZKY...
Sedric decided he wanted to play HOCKEY this year! When the season began, he had a hard time making it across the ice in less than 3 minutes. But it was amazing to see how the coaches were able to bring the kids along and teach them how to skate so quickly! After just a few practices, Sed showed a lot of improvement! He's pretty careful when he skates... he does his best not to fall. Last week they let them start using their sticks at practice, and next month they'll start playing in some scrimmages. He's having fun and it's cool to see our boys develop their own unique skills and interests in different areas.
Speaking of Sedric... he's learned a few impressive skills this year, including how to WHISTLE, snap his fingers, and do "musical armpit farts". He learned that from his mother ;)
TIS THE SEASON TO HAVE BIRTHDAYS
By far, December has become Birthday month around here. Carson turned 4 on the 11th, Sedric turned 6 on the 13th, and then the grand finale is on December 25th when we celebrate the birth of our King! We also have a lot of friends who celebrate birthdays this month, so happy birthday to you, too!
Carson had a birthday party at our house Sunday after church. He invited all of his friends, who are mostly all GIRLS. The 11-year-old girls really seem to love him... he had 4 of them at his party. Plus his dear friends Mela, Elise, Griffin and Anja. So we had a fun time throwing a Superman party, with a piņata and all!
Funny thing is, we went to Gigglebee's in Sioux Falls on Monday, and Carson opened the presents we got him, a few of which were Hot Wheels cars and accessories. Well, Sedric loves Hot Wheels... and he also loves trading things with his brothers. So last night, after the birthday party, I found out that Carson traded Sedric all of his Hot Wheel's birthday gifts! Even his big semi-truck transporter... which we thought he'd like... (but then I remembered that Sedric picked it out for him... hehe). Anyway, turns out Sed traded his battery-operated Batmobile (which cost almost $300 last Christmas), for Carson's brand new Hot Wheel toys (worth about $20)! I'm not sure who got the better deal there... since it really doesn't matter who "owns" them - they all get to play with everything anyway!
Anders is decorating for Sed's birthday right now as I write this! He's pretty creative... he's got streamers going every direction in the kitchen and living room... looks like a big spider's web. He also blew up about 20 balloons, and we put some Hot Wheels inside a few of them, just for fun :) Anders also has been doing a great job getting up in time for his bus every morning. He says he sees DEER just about every morning as he waits for the bus. We certainly do have a lot of wildlife around here, which we love. Except for the raccoons, who like to eat leftover cat food :(
Speaking of cats...
Last year's Christmas letter had some rather gruesome stories about cats that came and went during the year.
Well, this year was no different! Our mother cat, Muffy, had a litter of 4 kittens while we were gone on our Easter vacation. When we came back, 3 were still alive and 1 was dead. The boys named the kittens Mark, Luke and John. So we had Muffy, Mark, Luke and John. But after a few weeks, John was missing. Amanda thought she might've smelled something cat-like from her engine... and the next day I walked out to the garage and noticed Muffy, Mark and Luke were munching on a dead cat! At first I didn't think it was John because he looked a lot bigger than the other kittens, but when I did closer investigation, sure enough, John was being eaten by his own mother and siblings! How gross is that!?!
Muffy wasn't done having kittens, though. About 5 months later, she gave birth to 6 more! (She must've been getting hungry... baddum ching!) We really should make Bob Barker happy and get her spayed soon... So, of those 6, 1 got stuck in the litter box and died from eating too much of it... 1 hurt it's paw and Muffy rejected it, and it eventually died (froze to death, after nearly starving to death)... 1 was missing for about a week until I found it dead behind the house... 1 went to our friends the Kramer's (they also took Luke) and reportedly they're still alive and well... 1 went to our friends the Hood's (they named him Grizzly and they love him, he's doing great)... and 1 went to Gramma Nae's (Mini-muff the calico cat, unfortunately it ran away shortly after they got her, and they haven't seen her since).
And now, Amanda thinks Muffy is pregnant again!!! I don't think she is... but I've been wrong before!
THE END IS NEAR... ERRR... HERE!
OK, thanks for reading our Christmas letter! This turned out to be more of a blog than I anticipated, but I've enjoyed looking over our family events from 2006 and hope you have too. I hope you and your loved ones can celebrate the birth of Christ together and remember how awesome it is that God became man so we could live eternally with Him! We look forward to 2007 and all that God has in store for us in the coming year!
P.S. Before you go . . .