Sunday, December 24, 2017

Family year

2017 was a family-oriented year for us; being together more than ever, and also saying painful goodbyes. Mom and Dad live around the corner now and provide lots of Grandparent-loving for our girls. Heather, Bob, and Anna found a house in Broadway and Bob's dental practice is in full swing.

We managed to make it back to Athens for a short trip. It had only been two years, but our girls had mostly forgotten all of their peers (I guess it was half of Ellie's life in the past, and almost all of Katie's life). Nevertheless, they fit in quickly, and it was wonderful to reconnect with our own friends.

Enjoying the local fair with cousin Anna (I think).

JooYeon made one of the best decisions a mother can make and resolved over the summer for us to spend more time in nature. We began taking a lot more hikes or even just hanging out at playgrounds. It was fun to watch the step counts race up on my new Fitbit (I actually got it so that I could monitor my sleep and then analyze the data together with my statistics classes, but the stepping was a bonus).

Of course, we still tried to get our fair share of museums and other fun stuff. Below is the Richmond museum. We got a couple credit cards with free hotel stay bonuses, and then planned several little two-day trips for some family time.

Perhaps our longest trip was a 3-day trip to Philadelphia, where the girls got to see Legoland (although I still think the hotel stay won out as the trip highlight for them).

In between family trips, the girls had a constant vacation just around the corner from our house ... at Grandma's CraftWorld. Somehow, my mom finds a way to maintain an endless supply of crafts and activities for the girls whenever they stop in (which is often).

One of the bigger struggles throughout the year was Katie's eczema. The constant night scratching meant low-quality sleep for her and JooYeon. Here she is getting one of her battery of allergy tests; they didn't turn up anything, but Joo did some research of her own and found a nice balance of dandelion root tea that Katie now drinks daily (and has improved substantially).

Some colleagues and I released another biennial version of Why Rural Matters, a national policy report on the health of rural education in each of the 50 states. This also meant a couple more speaking engagements on Capitol Hill. Despite my playful demeanor below, the climate in the meeting was one of the most somber I've ever been to -- as each agency shared an update on the funding cuts being made to pillars of rural US, it became clear that rural America was not being given whatever attention it had hoped for in the most recent election.

As part of the Outdoor Initiative (and Grandma's good eye at a thrift store), the girls each got their first bike.

One of our many blessings these days is having such a caring and talented brother-in-law who helps us constantly with our many dental needs.

Even though my work at EMU occupies a large portion of my time and energy, I don't really have photos to reflect it, aside from this rare shot of two colleagues (Danny and Owen) on a hike we took.

And one of some of my students (at a computer programming contest).

As Ellie and Katie grow older and develop their own unique personalities, Joo and I have tried to make sure to spend some one-on-one time with each of them. Ellie and I got the delicious privilege of going on a daddy-daughter date for the annual Chocolate Walk where many of the downtown businesses offer a tasty chocolate treat. Near the end, we came across an art show that had some veggies -- Ellie looked at me and said, "Dad, I just really need to eat a bite of broccoli."

Even though we're still rather infrequent, we finally settled on a home church -- Shalom Mennonite. Here's an Easter sunrise service.

Another DC trip, here with two of my coauthors (Bob and Sara).

Katie takes great pride in being a "wall expert" when it comes to Legos. Ellie and I often subcontract with her for the walls when we build things with Legos.

A nice part about Harrisonburg is that it's such an addictive place to live that we haven't lost many friends who moved elsewhere. A rare exception was Ben and Sarah, who are now living in New Zealand for a few years. I guess if you have to move out of Harrisonburg, New Zealand's an acceptable replacement.

Cousin Claire as Wendy at a showing of Peter Pan. Ellie was horrified and thrilled to have the Crocodile brush right past her aisle seat during the show.

Two more daddy-daughter dates: Valentine's Day Dance and ice skating.

Our biggest transition of the year was Ellie's public school debut. She attends a dual-immersion (half-day Spanish, half-day English) kindergarten. Aside from some inevitable bumps along the way, it's been an excellent opportunity for her. For example, below is her Spanish teacher during an eating exchange where they made tamales and gingerbread cookies.

After spending most of our adult years apart, it's hard to express how wonderful it is to have family nearby.

And there has also been loss. JooYeon and I both lost a Grandma this year. JooYeon's experience was probably harder because the loss was more sudden and it was difficult to be in a different country.

So, as the years roll by, and we form new friendships, we're constantly reminded of the enduring nature of family. As I write this, we're in Oregon with JooYeon's sister, excited to pick up their mom from the airport (it'll be the first time I've seen her in three years and for JooYeon in nearly that).


Of course, exploring one's individual identity is important, even in the context of family. So, we'll end with a late night selfie from Katie. Who knows what this 3-yr-old does after we're asleep? :)