Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our Christmas Letter 2014

Christmas Greetings from South Dakota!

Once again I, Maria, sit down to write this year’s Christmas letter on the suggestion of my parents and the eager agreement of myself. Why, you may ask? The answer is simple. Because I love writing.

Patrick (27) spent most of the year in Amsterdam, save for occasional visits and a project he did for work in the US this summer. Actually, we got to reverse the norm and visit Patrick in Amsterdam in August! He and I walked for three hours straight while he showed me around town. He also joined us when we went to Morocco. But more on that later. Just a few weeks ago, Patrick decided to move back to the States and work in IMC’s Chicago office. He surprised us all (except Dad) by showing up at 10 PM the night before Thanksgiving! We were overjoyed. In February, Patrick will retrace part of Grandpa Mike’s expedition to Antarctica during the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year. During that year, Grandpa worked in a navy cargo ship for the University of Chicago, measuring cosmic rays in Antarctica. Patrick will be traveling in a small Grand Circle ship. On the way back, he will visit relations in Brazil. Mom is praying his Antarctica ship won’t be icebound! We’ll have to compare his penguin photos with Grandpa Mike’s.

Claudia (25) also visited our humble abode this summer, spending most of July with us. We had a blast, as usual, cooking, laughing, doing crafts and going on outings. In August Mom, Dad, Thomas, Tessie and I took a trip abroad! We traveled everywhere by train and visited Amsterdam, toured Eichstatt, in the heart of Bavarian Germany with Aunt Nina who is a novice at the Benedictine Abbey there, and enjoyed an unforgettable if lightning-quick visit to Paris: Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower took our breath away! We are now experts in European train-travel as we took all sorts of trains and enjoyed the stress-free trains are, compared to airports and airplanes! After Paris we flew to Casablanca for the Moroccan celebration of Claudia and Othman’s wedding. It was really cool to meet Othman’s extended family and learn about Moroccan culture. Claudia and Othman are thinking about moving to France and I hope they do, so I can visit them for longer periods of time and practice my French by total immersion!

Gus (22) has been one busy person this year. We all flew to his graduation from The University of Dallas in May where we spent time with Grandma and Tom and the Klevens, and he worked here in SD for the summer. In July, he proposed to his girlfriend Emily (with an antique ring we girls helped choose) and they are getting married in August. Yay! A wedding! Then he moved to PA for his first job: he works at a small classical Catholic school near Philadelphia (and loves it), where he teaches Greek and 5th grade homeroom. He has impressed us all by how much he’s been cooking (with mom’s help over FaceTime).

Thomas (20) continues to live at home and take classes at SDSU, where he is a junior double-majoring in GIS and Geography. This past summer he worked full-time for Larson manufacturing and paid his college tuition. He joined the Statesmen (the men’s choir) and is joining Concert Choir next semester. He’s going on a choir trip to Canada this spring. Right after New Year’s, he is one of the numerous college students traveling from here to Nashville for SEEK—a national Catholic youth college student conference.

Isabel (19) was on crutches for much of the summer due to a toe injury received while playing Ultimate Frisbee on the campus’ new turf. She is a sophomore the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, and is constantly in company of a truly wonderful group of friends! She has a new piano teacher who was on sabbatical last year and happens to be head of Dept., and made it to the top chamber choir on campus. We were able to go to one of her concerts in October, which was very beautiful. Isabel came home for Thanksgiving and went with Mom, Patrick and Tessie on a family 5K run. They got rather frozen in the -8° weather. She enjoys her on-campus job at the Music building’s coffee shop, and is excited for her upcoming choir trip to Peru this upcoming May. It will double as a service trip, which makes it all the better.

I, Maria, (15) am surviving my sophomore year of high school with next to no problems. I’m taking AP Latin at O’Gorman high school, which involves a lot of being annoyed at Julius Caesar for overusing weird grammatical constructions, and thanking Vergil for writing more interesting stuff than Caesar did. I’m also on my third year of French, in which we are reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne en francais. 75% of our grade is a book report in French. (Yikes!) I also memorized and recited two poems for Poetry Out Loud! Other than that, advanced fiction writing, British literature, history of the Protestant Reformation, piano, voice, organ, geometry, poetry, weekly Eucharistic Adoration, and physics keep me busy. However I still find enough time to knit, crochet, bake, drink tea, listen to Jane Austen, and of course work on my novel, which is 45,000 words in. Thank God I homeschool! Otherwise I’d be doomed.

Tessie, who turned 14 on Thanksgiving Day, is in 8th grade. In summer she joined in Shakespeare Camp for the first time and managed to break her arm badly the day before the performance. Mom is the costume director and was able to hide the broken arm under whimsical fairy wings! She goes to the middle school across the street part time, where she takes art, choir, and American history. She is also a member of the middle school chapter of FCCLA, a community leadership/service group. She performed a solo of Caccini’s Ave Maria (which is actually by Vladimir Vavilov, but I digress) in Brookings Got Talent, since I had a conflict that night and we couldn’t do the duet we had auditioned for. She recently joined color-guard in preparation for high school next year, and they do indoor training during the winter. She still takes voice with me, and she made it again to the South Dakota Junior Honor Choir (they will perform in January in Sioux Falls), in addition to being in the middle school’s select mixed chorus.

Mom and Dad will tell you about themselves: After being depleted of all of his miles for the family’s European/Moroccan tour, Geoff is steadily building up his miles-stockpile again. He goes on trips to DC and other domestic spots often, “mostly NASA-related stuff” as he says. Upcoming international trips include Austria, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Switzerland and France. Geoff is delving more in the Humanities this year as he is leading a Poetry class with the girls and homeschooled friends. He gave a speech about “Education in the Liberal Arts as preparation for a career in Science” at a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Santa Fe campus of his alma mater St. John’s College. Aninha went with him on the much overdue anniversary trip, and so much they again enjoyed that area, that it did cross their mind to stay there… alas, they did return to the North Pole… rather to South Dakota, where she keeps busy with activities including bible study, leading Book Club, choir and her daily walks. Ana was in Brazil with family last March, when her father Claudio was not well, and was privileged to be the one of his ten children to be with him when he passed to eternal life. A lovely family reunion ensued, with much reminiscing and of course guitar music! Claudio lived a full, faithful and vibrant life, and touched so many people with his infectious, giving, and open personality. We received beautiful messages from near and far during that time, and it helped us as a family to honor his memory. House-hunting has become just one more of our common activities, as the hopes of finding that sunny, bright house with four southern-exposure walls becomes dimmer and dimmer. “It’s either a house or paying for kids to go to college,” has been heard in this house. For now, our townhouse has become a home, and it will host six kids plus Emily for Christmas!

From Our Home to Yours,

a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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