Christmas Letter

January 3, 2015

I was pondering the wisdom of sending out a letter with our annual Christmas card, but my self-conscious nature overcame me.  Instead, I’ll post my draft here on the internet, where even more people could see it, should they ever stumble upon this sputtering old blog.

christmas card photo 1

Little A (21 months) would like to report that 2014 was a great year for learning to walk, turning one, jumping and climbing, and acquiring useful phrases such as “I hungry,” “Itchy, ow, ow,” “Doggie, woof, woof,” “CANDY!” and the dual-use “Si,” which denotes either brother. Impishly petite with deep dimples and thumb-sucking-induced buck teeth, she’s always busy unless she’s splayed out on the floor with her beloved dirty pink blankey. Stereotypically obsessed with shoes, purses, and credit cards, she’s also got a keen ear for trash trucks and sirens and loves the sound of ripping book pages. She hasn’t met a playground slide or ladder she can’t conquer but when asked if she’d like to sit on the potty, her knees start to quake and her palms become sweaty. Asked what she’d choose for her last earthly meal, she replied, “Orange juice and Halloween candy. Thanks.”

christmas card photo 4

Middle Son (turning 4 on January 16) helped us meet all out-of-pocket health insurance expenses this year and last as he enjoyed a 9-day stay at Hotel Children’s Hospital at the tail-end of 2013 having a thrice-broken arm repaired and bone infection treated. He got his PICC line out in February and finished all antibiotics on the first day of Spring. We figure he’s called to the medical profession because he just can’t get enough; forehead stitches resulting in a Harry Potter-esque scar were in order in March. But he’s been up to other things, too, like riding a two-wheeler and learning how to write his name, honing his sharp attention to details, narrating imaginary worlds as he builds with Duplos, dreaming—nay planning—of playing professional baseball for the Nationals when he grows up, and issuing frequent hyperbolic statements. “Aw, shucks!” and “such-and-such is my BEST!” are catchphrases these days.


Older Son (5 ½), or our “first baby,” as he frequently characterizes himself, is busy avoiding all attempts at formalized education. He’s in homeschool Kindergarten and is learning to read, to add and subtract, and is busy preparing a paper for a symposium on the Four Laws of Thermodynamics. In all seriousness, his interests reside in the realm of (military) history, and highlights include his birthday tour of the United States Naval Academy and a trip to Ft. McHenry. His favorite colors are “red, white and blue AND camouflage.” He finds himself a burgeoning Anglophile (“It’s called the ‘boot’ in England, not the ‘trunk.’”) and needs frequent reassurances that Great Britain and the United States have been able to move past the War of 1812. He dreams of the day he can own a lawn care business, comprised solely of leaf-blowing services.   He’s a great big brother, albeit a bit bossy, and has certainly mastered Tom Sawyer’s strategy of getting the fence white-washed.

Aaron graduated this year, donning the old cap and gown to receive a hard-earned Bachelor’s in Accounting (3.9 GPA, thanks for asking) from the University of Maryland University College. We enjoyed a fabulous graduation party in our backyard, highlighting both Aaron’s achievements and our massive new deck (thanks, Uncle Mike and countless others!). When he’s not fighting crime in our nation’s fair capital, he can be found playing tennis, perfecting his barefoot running technique, serving on our church plant’s steering committee, or eating away at the 11 lb. Nutella tub he received for Fathers’ Day.

christmas card photo 3

Miriam finds herself tutoring at our local Classical Conversations community on Mondays, desperately hoping to impart the importance of memorizing John 1:1-7 in Latin and the parts of the endocrine and circulatory systems to a group of wily and wiggly 4 and 5 year olds. Her zinnias and tomatoes did phenomenally well this year, if she does say so herself. A little bookkeeping for two DC churches ensures that she spends most of her online time doing more productive things than drowning in Pinterest project overload. When she does find free time—not already filled with eating Bon-Bons—she loves to paint paintings, furniture, walls, and anything else she can reach with a paintbrush.

We enjoyed several trips as a family this year: a birthday train ride to the aquarium in Baltimore, a week in North Carolina at the beloved Sneads Ferry home, with friends along to enjoy the beach and the endless search for shark teeth; a four-day weekend in Pittsburgh and Grove City to see old friends and celebrate a college reunion; several trips to enjoy Potomac River tubing and the sights of Harpers’ Ferry; and jaunts up 95N to visit with family in Pennsylvania.

This letter has become longer than etiquette would allow, so we’ll leave you with many thanks for the way you have loved and supported us through this past year, and prayers that you would each know joy in Christ this Advent and Christmas season.





The Eagle Has Landed

February 2, 2014

A HUGE congratulations to Michael A. Clement on his achievement of the rank of Eagle Scout!

DSC_0130Father dearest, Eagle Sam, Eagle Michael, Life Scout Thomas, Mother dearest.

DSC_0052State Del. Cathy Vitale presenting a citation.  Enormous crucifix as backdrop and conversation starter.

DSC_0124Sam and Liam.  The young boys were having a blast; so many young men to look up to (literally) and aspire to be like.  It helped that there was a soda bar and a huge sheet cake at the event; always a good time.


A tie tack for Pa.


The Eagle medal for Michael.  Ma received a pin, but we don’t have the photos to prove it.


Cookie cakes as my contributions to the vittles.  Boy Scout slogan and motto, respectively.

Good work, Michael!  You put in many years of hard work to achieve this, and everyone is very proud of you.  Enjoy the rest of that sub sandwich!


Three is Nice

January 24, 2014


This guy.  He’s had a rough past two months (a longer story for another day) with his shattered elbow, botched surgery,  bone infection, nine day hospital stay, and PICC line for at-home IV administration.  But he turned three last week!  And boy did we live it up.

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, he asked for a firetruck cake.  He chose chocolate for the inside and got, as is the custom, pink on the outside.  We had pepperoni pizza (with the pepperonis removed, of course!  but don’t you dare try to order just plain cheese…it’s different somehow).  He got fabulous books and trucks and slippers as gifts.

Then it was off to the aquarium via the MARC train on the weekend.  We had waffled on whether to shell out the big bucks on the aquarium but when we got to the Inner Harbor (via taxi!  how cosmopolitan!  and why is it legal to go sans car seats?!) and felt the winter winds whipping our hair and frosting our noses in below freezing temps, we pulled out our wallets and said “tickets for 5!” faster than…well…something fast.



IMG_2630It was a wonderful time.  We chose to forgo a birthday party this year for a variety of reasons: Asher’s health (trying to stay clear of viruses!), the weather (poor winter babies — it’s so hard to have a birthday party exclusively indoors), and his personality (too much attention and he kind of shuts down).  He’s a family boy, this middle child of ours, and he loves nothing better than to be with his parents and sibs.  So a family outing was just the ticket!

This old blog here was kinda dying, but when I look back on the posts I’ve written for my boys’ birthdays, I’ve been so glad I took the time to record their little personalities and idiosyncrasies.  Hence today’s post.

So, without further ado, to my second son:

Asher, we’re so thankful we had such an insane past few months with your health because, despite the setbacks and fears and outright frustrations, we’ve gotten to know you so much better than ever before.  Those eight nights and nine days (yes, we counted!) you and your Dad spent in the hospital together were such a time a bonding and trust-building.  Your vocabulary skyrocketed as you learned to communicate with doctors and nurses and your parents like never before (“Are you going to do anything to me?”).  You watched Despicable Me more times than we ever imagined possible, yet you still can’t pronounce the title  (“Spick-uh-da Me”).

Your pain tolerance is out of this world.  You had Motrin a handful of times, and always at the nurse’s initiation, not because of complaints.  You are so conscientious of your cast (now splint!) and PICC line, and all our fears of bringing a preschooler home with such things vanished when we saw how you took care of them and alerted us to any problems.  Your attention to detail is amazing, as you remind us of the steps we need to take when we flush the PICC line (“white then blue!”  “wipe the top AND sides”).

You now love to be read to.  Sure, you can’t always make it through a long book, but you now ask to be read to multiple times a day.  And I’m just gonna say it: you are an out and out control freak.  I’d venture to say more than the average preschooler.  You want to know the order of the day, and consistently make demands (“and after breakfast, you can read a book and then after that book can you read another book and then can we watch a show?  And then another show?  Just two shows…just two little shows…and one more?”)  Heck, I won’t even be finished reading something before you’ve hopped off the couch to grab the next book and you won’t rest until I’ve answered in the affirmative that that book will, in fact, be the next book read.  I’m not sure this is all making sense in writing, but you are an insistent, fixated young man.

You and Silas play together so well these days.  I’ll be all set to move us on to the next activity for the day (say, getting dressed or something else equally exciting) but then I’ll overhear the imaginary play you two are engaged in (with you holding your own!), and I just can’t bring myself to interrupt.  So I tiptoe away so as not to break the spell.  You love to make everything (trains, trucks, stuffed animals, kitchen utensils) into families: a mother, father, and kids with baby falsetto voices.  It’s hilarious.  There are also about 25 stuffed animals and both of your little sister’s baby dolls in your bed.  You’re a cuddly fellow.

I’ve enjoyed your enthusiasm in jumping right into home school with your brother.  At your age, Silas couldn’t be bothered with worksheets and such, but you love that kind of thing.  You’re doing quite well with your colors and shapes, and you’ve definitely got the letter “A” figured out.  You always want to participate in the work, never choosing the option to just stay in the family room playing.

Food is a major battle these days.  Dinner, to be exact.  You always walk into the kitchen and ask what’s for dinner and immediately pronounce “I don’t like that.”  Pancakes and pizza, the only meals that meet with your approval.  Sigh.

You are looking forward to taking swimming lessons and dance classes soon, and we can’t wait to sign you up.  You have a natural grace when you move through the house, and you can’t help but sway when you hear a passing beat.  I do think you could be a great dancer if it interests you.

My favorite thing that you are saying these days is “I love you, too, Mom” out of nowhere and usually accompanied by a hug around the legs.

We love you, too, Asher.  Happy birthday!

Here Comes the Bride

October 8, 2013

This past weekend, my sister-in-law and I hosted a bridal shower for our newest future sister-in-law, Nhi.  It was a family shower, and it was wonderful to catch up with relatives from the far-flung regions of Alexandria, Beltsville, Fredericksburg, King George, and the like.  Really, it’s shameful how infrequently we get together!

I only managed to snap a few photos on my phone.  But look at that cake!  Thanks to Whitney for the delicious dessert that had even our “light eaters” finishing their pieces.

shower 2My contribution: the chalkboard sign and the lunch items.

shower 3shower 1Looking forward to the wedding in December!  Southern California here we come!


North Carolina in My Home

October 4, 2013

Many years ago, we watched a cheesy travel special on North Carolina with a catchy jingle… “North Carolina is my home…”  It’s often stuck in my head when we visit, like we did this past August.  What?!  Am I really writing about August in October?  Life.

My grandmother’s blueberries.  We enjoyed meeting the neighbor couple out there and telling them all about being from Washington, DC.  Their dog’s name was D.O.G., which, if you say it really fast with a southern accent, sounds like “dee-ohhhhhh-gee.”

DSC_0124DSC_0129The beach.  A few blissful moments and a lot of meltdowns.  Hoping that Son #2 is over his fear of the ocean by next summer!DSC_0153We also visited the Fort Fisher Aquarium, did some antique shop hopping, lots of eating, cousin-visiting, reading, learning how to sit up independently (well, just one of us did that), playground climbing, Shrimp-festivalling and parade-watching.