So… Christmas letters are supposed to be sent at, well, Christmas.  Unfortunately, I was busier than usual at that point in time and lazy as ever.  So, now I have this letter typed into my computer, several months late and something that most people just throw away anyway.  I figure if you’re reading our blog, perhaps you would also have read a Christmas letter (grandma? =) ) if not, well, at least I didn’t waste the paper that you’d have thrown away.

You wouldn’t think our house would have a lot to say in an annual news letter, but even though we aren’t in a lot of activities per se, we certainly experience a lot of activity!

Our biggest flurry of activity occurred around November 9th. That is the day Asa Corban joined our family. We are often asked which hat we pull our names from, so to save some time: The Asa our son is named for was an Old Testament King of whom you see verses like, "And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD." and "the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days." In addition to a really neat namesake, the name itself means "He has given" while Corban means "given to God". Asa joining our family was preceded by a long-delayed request for induction (our boys are procrastinators), a discovery of extreme breech position and a C-section. We have determined that he anticipated having his milestones neglected, being the third child, so he wanted to make his entrance memorable. While we recovered in the hospital, Matt handled the concurrent ill child (Lithany) and broken child (Orion) like the expert dad he is, but did succumb to the Lithany’s germs right as he had to return to work. What an interesting two weeks!!

As if to give us a hand with all the turmoil that surrounded his birthday, Asa turned out to be a great third baby! He smiles at his siblings, puts up with their noise, adapts to their handling and his cries usually have an easily solved reason behind them like "I’m tired" or "Feed me". So far, he’s content to lay on the floor or in his car seat while I take the older two outside to play or read stories just with them. When he was first born he carried a contemplative scowl anytime he was awake. Apparently he has a few things figured out now, because his thoughtful look has been replaced by smiles and coos while he tries to explain them to us.

Lithany just turned two and really enjoys being bigger than someone – namely Asa. When she is in a helpful mood she will bring "Asa-boy" everything from pillows to baby toys to every blanket we own, any available pacifiers (which he doesn’t use anyway!) and her baby doll’s bottle. Her vocabulary has exploded and she loves the sound of her own voice. She wanders around the house singing and likes to sit and read stories ‘by herself’. Her songs and stories are usually seamlessly integrated combinations of 5 different books or lyrics which makes them pretty amusing to listen to. Her newest phase is saying "Listen, mommy," followed by a very long tale/instruction time which, while the words themselves are understandable, has no linear thought whatsoever. "Listen, mommy" is then repeated anytime my eyes look elsewhere. This can last up to five minutes. I sometimes wonder if she thinks that my speaking to her is that long or that non-understandable. Lithany and Orion are invisibly tethered together most of the time which makes it almost impossible for them to play in different rooms, whether they are playing together, on their own, or just irritating the each other. Lithany has always been the one to add spice to our life. It is not unusual for her to attempt to send mom, dad, or Orion to time out for such grievous offenses as not reading her a story when she asks or refusing to give up our chair. Nor is it unusual for her to give numerous and wordy explanations as to why she cannot possibly obey what we’ve asked followed by an exasperated sigh that would be a credit to any sulky teenager when her excuse is not accepted. This is not due to the terrible twos at all… in fact, she’s mellowed out a lot in the last few months prior to her birthday. For those of you who are appalled at these actions, please understand that while we can smile at telling these stories and will probably tease her about them as an adult, we do realize that there are better ways for our daughter to use her vivacious personality and are glad that these are becoming rarer occurrences. On the plus side, her cheerful obedience and the words "Okay, mommy/daddy." is slowly becoming a new habit for her.

Orion is our big, manly three year old who deepens and toughens his voice to mimic his older cousins and who often plays the role of Jimminy Cricket by parroting things that mom and dad have told him: "Mommy, can you speak to Lithany nicely?" "Lithany, after the story we are going to bed with NO whining OR fussing." My favorite phrase so far this year was when he turned to his distracted sister on a walk and said, "Come on, Lithany-honey!" His biggest accomplishments this year are breaking his arm (all healed, now!) and putting Lithany to bed all by himself the night Asa was born. Apparently, this was his insurance that he would get to stay up. "I’m going to stay up for a little while. I’ll put her to bed and then I’ll come back down. That’s the deal, Grandma." Amazingly enough, she trotted right upstairs, received her hug and kiss, allowed him to cover her up and never made another peep (for those of you who have been at our house at bedtime, you know how TERRIBLY miraculous that was). Yes, our son is quickly learning the art of subtle manipulation and trying to ever so sweetly usurp the power of "boss" by presenting to US the order of events or what "the deal" is. Thankfully, he usually uses this power for good, not for evil. He most loves listening to songs, reading and ‘rough and tumble’. Like all boys I have known, he seems to need a good deal of physical activity to keep from driving everyone insane. Apart from the favored climber, some of his favorite activities are chasing anyone that will run and some that won’t, beating up bears and alligators (with the belt from a robe), and pulling the climber, rocking airplane or other miscellaneous items around the house (with the same belt). That old orange belt is also used for tug of war, ‘seatbelts’ (which are sometimes a necessity on the climber?), and ‘soldier attire’. It is not unusual to hear him call Lithany from atop the climber telling her to hurry and get away from the bear/alligator/nozzle. No, we really have no idea why we are running from nozzles… or if HE even knows what a nozzle IS, but that’s okay. He also likes to rock his baby brother to sleep… especially if he can persuade mom to read ASA a story while he does so. He often shows his affection for Asa and/or his own desire for attention by exclaiming such astute observations as "He’s SOOO little!" and "I LIKE him." with gusto (phrases picked up quickly by Lithany.)

Matt is working hard as one of the managers at Applebee’s in Omaha. This job has been a challenge for him in a number of ways, not the least of which being that managing requires dealing with conflicts that are not always resolvable and telling others who may or may not do a good job what needs done rather than completing the task himself. Neither of these has come easy for a people-pleasing perfectionist!! Nevertheless, his new store seems pleased with his efforts. Although this job and the drive time involved keep him out of the house for anywhere from 12-14 hours at a time, it has allowed both of us to drop our part-time jobs. Going from a three-employer family to a one-employer family should make filling out tax forms easier and also means that when he is home on his "weekend" days, everyone is home to enjoy each other which is a nice change. He is currently crunching numbers and consulting realtors about the sale value of our house in order to see how far we have to go on our journey of saving up to return to China where he plans to teach at the same university as our previous visit. Our August 2008 deadline appears to have been somewhat ambitious. Once all the numbers have been crunched and realtors consulted, we will begin working on a new deadline with an adjusted plan.

And I… I find myself wondering how I ever raised a baby without toddlers around to help! When they are not pushing the cancel button in the middle of the dishwasher cycle to watch the lights change (we wondered for awhile why the performance of the dishwasher was becoming so sporadic before we caught the culprit!), they are very handy. They fetch diapers and wipes, throw used ones away, feed and water Tidus, let him outside, help empty the dishwasher and (if someone is standing over them) will even pick up their toys sometimes. Sometimes they even read books to each other… whether the "other" wants them to or not. Maybe this is why weight loss is going so slowly with this one… I don’t have to get up as often! The biggest challenge facing me right now (aside from getting back into my jeans!) is trying to be true to what I attempt to teach my children. (Which is why Orion has taken up the job of reminding me to "speak kindly" to his sister. At least I get the reward of hearing him say "Thank you for asking kindly" once in awhile! It makes me feel like such a big girl.)