Country Roads, Take Me Home…

That’s what we think everyday when we come home, driving into our new neighborhood. That was the huge change this year, deciding to take advantage of low mortgage rates and buy a house with some land. It’s really cool to drive up to our house, seeing only our house with tons of free space around it. With nearly 3 acres, Tia’s dream of owning a horse is just around the corner.

We recently went to our first neighborhood party and apparently everyone already knew Tia as the “horse lady”. She’s taking care of Star and Shadow, our neighbor’s two white horses (of some breed known to Tia, but they’re just white to Steve). She rides them often and has gotten Steve on them a few times. It’s truly a neat experience, a little scary, and gives Steve tremendous respect for what “horsepower” truly means. They are strong (and dumb) beasts!! The response from the kids is mixed. They loved it at first, have cooled a little, though they still help out sometimes with cleaning and feeding. Apparently we’ve started the free fall towards more, not less, responsibility. Someday Steve knows Tia will have horses, sheep, llamas, and who knows what else.

It’s been a year of change on the job front as well. Tia’s responsibilities increased in the spring, so she’s been slammed with work. It’s been a good career move that has her in weekly contact with VPs. While the increased responsibility has added stress, she has survived the never-ending layoffs in her company and was even invited to speak in October at her company’s user conference. Nervous Nelly before she left, it was a piece of cake for her. She’s been with her company for 7 years now though, and she’s starting to feel the itch for a change. We’ll see where life takes her next.

For Steve, he survived layoffs as well. Peoplesoft bought J.D. Edwards this summer and Steve got promoted from DBA to DBA manager after the acquisition. Not exactly what Steve wanted, managing other people, but a “safe” job that should keep him employed as long as he doesn’t screw it up. That’s the good news. The bad news is Steve travels to Pleasanton, CA once a month now. But luckily, the other good news is Tia stopped traveling so the kids at least have one parent around. Steve’s “other” job with SQL Server is also doing great. Steve and his 2 “partners in crime” published a book this year. They also launched a magazine. A real honest to God, glossy, 36 page magazine! Hopefully, it will turn out to be our ticket to financial independence over the long haul (because owning horses ain’t cheap).

Kyle has grown up quite a bit this year. After the move he started middle school in the new neighborhood. A big kid!! He chose his own classes, has a locker, and oh yeah, gets to wake up at 6:30 for a 7:15 bus, which he almost never misses! Not what he had in mind, but he’s doing fantastic in school and is in the choir, science club, and geology club. Kyle also has really spent a lot of time on his creative writing this year, always keeping a notebook handy. His writing teacher said he is one of the only students with the potential to get published, so we’re trying to motivate him. Unfortunately after 4 years in Scouts, he’s recently dropped out. He advanced to Boy Scouts, and those big boys really love to camp! Just as he got Steve to actually go on a camping trip, Kyle decided it wasn’t his thing. Maybe seeing Steve suffer through a campout was his goal all along :)

Duke G.I. Joe is still, well, Duke G.I. Joe. Delaney likes to be called that, though lately it’s been Duke Handsome. Sometime this summer he decided he wanted to wear clothes like Dad, “tail shirts” as he calls them (collared, button ups) that he tucks in. So most days he’s dressed just like Dad. He wants to be like Dad so much that Steve had to change shirts one day because his shirt color didn’t match his “mini-me”. He still loves G.I. Joe and camo clothes (thanks to Grandma Mary his sheets are camo), but that’s now tempered with fancy duds. :)

School has been great for him. We started him in a Montessori school in July and when Sept rolled around he was in the pre-K class for an hour before he got moved right into Kindergarten. The teacher said he’d be wasting his time in the Pre-K. So he’s learning and doing well and is slated for 1st grade next year. He’ll be too young to start first grade in the public school system, so we’re stuck in private schools (with the dreaded tuition) for a while. Not to worry, now you have our new address and can send your donations. :)

Our baby girl, Kendall, is also growing up. A year of change for her, she started pre-school with Delaney, though in a separate class. She’s learning new things and is hot and cold at school. It’s an adjustment for her and we’re watching her develop from a toddler into a little girl. She loves books and insists on taking some to school most days. Other children are playing or listening to the teacher and there’s Kendall - reading a book. She also wants her books in bed with her, at least the Lion King book (for now). Sometimes she’ll crawl in our bed at night and then cry out for her books. Hey, some kids have Teddy Bears, some kids have Disney books… Either way, we just love waking up with a 2 year old and books in our bed. Ah, the joys of parenting.

A sad note for us. We lost Boo, one of our Great Dane’s, to cancer this year. Tia and I had to put her down and it was a very sad day for us, both of us crying and holding her as the vet euthanized her. We still miss her. Fortunately our other Great Dane, Jade, now 9, is doing great. We’re still trying to decide if we want another dog. Tia tried to push us all over the edge this past summer with a one-week trial with a black lab. She was looking to fill Boo’s shoes, but it was a failed experiment. So for now, we’re a one pet family (see the 2nd paragraph).

It’s been another action-packed, fun-filled year for us. Everyone’s healthy, the quality of our lives is ever-improving, and we’re all growing and learning together as a family. The kids are skiing, horseback riding, going to school, making new friends, eating, sleeping… you get the idea. This year they got to see Disney World, Sea World, Colorado’s biggest snow storm of the century (nearly 4 feet!), the mountains from a tent, the mountains from a camper (with heated beds just for Steve), life outside of suburbia, the list goes on and on. We are very thankful for our happiness and good fortune.

We hope that this Christmas letter finds you in good health and enjoying life! And we’re always happy for company out in the wild, wild west if you need a new adventure. Have a wonderful holiday season and may your 2004 be full of fun and happiness.