(best read by printing first)

Well, it’s that time of year again, and so much has happened since last year that it’s hard to know where to begin[1]. There is so much to tell about our Fabulous, Fabulous Lives© in this year’s Fabulous, Fabulous Christmas Letter 2009©. This year was especially Fabulous, as we welcomed a new presence into our lives that has changed our family for the better[2]. As I write this letter, Mark and I are sitting by the fire sipping our organic free-trade vegan mulled cider, reminiscing about our day. We spent the evening huddled around our glossy baby grand[3], singing Handel’s Messiah in four-part harmony. (Unfortunately, Karis was struggling with the alto part, but she was able to recite Luke 4 using Baby Signs[4]). Jafta concluded our evening with a stirring rendition of Silent Night on his dulcimer, and then he and India performed the pas de deux[5] from The Nutcracker. Just a typical night in the Howerton house.[6] As we sit and reflect back on the year, I think it’s fair to say it was marked by some highs[7] and some lows[8]. The beginning of the year ushered in my third trimester of pregnancy, and any of you who know me well know that this was a season of great joy and expectancy[9]. On April 26th, we welcomed Karis Jade Howerton into the world,. We had a brief adjustment period,[10] but I can safely say that we have finally found our new baseline as a family of five.[11] Shortly after Karis was born, my mother came for a visit, and then my sister and her family, and then my nephews stayed for a week. We’ve found that having a house full of visitors is a great way to acclimate to life with a newborn.[12] We also got to take a trip to Seattle to visit with Mark’s brother and family. Of course, a year in the Fabulous life of the Howertons wouldn’t be complete without several trips to our favorite Caribbean vacation spot that we love to frequent[13]. Just thinking of the sights and sounds of that tropical island remind me of so many memories from the last 3 years.[14] Speaking of, I am sure you’ve noticed that our family photo is still missing our little boy from Haiti we’ve been trying adopt for so long. In last year’s Christmas letter, I jokingly said that if he wasn’t home by this Christmas, that I would need a straightjacket.[15] Thank goodness I am a patient, laid-back person who doesn’t mind ambiguity.[16] We are sending a photo of Keanan along with this letter. Would you set it somewhere in your house and pray for our adoption process when you see it? We could certainly use it. I am hopeful that next year our photobooth picture is a little more crowded. Jafta had a great year being four. He continues to be our little renaissance man. He loves literature, wooden toys, sketching architecture, and going to his Mensa meetings[17]. He got the chance to play on his first baseball league, and let me tell you, the offers just came rolling in[18]. After a couple of games spent in the outfield, he decided that baseball was boring, and he’s now convinced that basketball is where the action’s at. He is big man on campus in the older preschool class, and the tallest in his class by far. India got to join her brother at preschool this fall since she finally decided to lead a diaper-free existence.[19] She is enamored with all things princess right now, and doesn’t feel her day is complete until she has made at least six costume changes. She turned three in October with a High School Musical celebration, and we are happy to have one more child out of the terrible two’s.[20] Karis is almost nine months old and her personality is emerging every day. We have her on a strict combination of Babywise and Attachment parenting.[21] We’ve figured out how to do her tummy time in a sling, and I feed her “on demand” at precise 3-hour intervals.[22] Mark has continued to enjoy working as a therapist in private practice. It’s tough to talk too much about Mark’s work due to confidentiality stuff, but he’s had some interesting cases this year, helping out the marriages of some high-profile couples.[23] He loves his flexible schedule and spending time with the kids, and continues to enjoy golf.[24] I have taken a little break from seeing clients during this season.[25] I’m still supervising a few interns and I will be teaching two classes in the grad psych department at Vanguard, but I prefer to spend my days doing traditional stay-at-home mom things.[26] I’ve also continued to dabble in writing for a couple online outlets. It’s nice when something you love can also pay the bills.[27] In my spare time, I also decided to train for a 1/2 marathon.[28] I’m running the Disney World half in January, and I’m raising money for an amazing ministry in Haiti.[29] As always, we are grateful for your friendship and support, and thankful you’ve taken the time to read up on our antics[30]. We hope you have a wonderful New Year! ~The Howerton Family

[1] My focus group tells me this sentence is the best way to start a Christmas letter, because sounding busy = more Fabulous.
[2] Yep. That fancy blender from Costco is everything we had hoped for and more.
[3] An ancient, out-of-tune piano that has a ding on each key from being played with drumsticks by an anonymous percussion enthusiast in the house. Hint: also a spiderman fan
[4] Okay, not quite. But I swear I saw her give a fist pump when Russell won on So You Think You Can Dance.
[5] I had to google that word to know how to spell it.
[6] Actually, everything in that paragraph is a lie. It’s the middle of the day on a Sunday and I’m alone in my kitchen, having just threatened Mark with his life if he didn’t GET THESE LOUD KIDS OUTTA MY HAIR SO I CAN FINISH THIS FRIGGIN’ LETTER ALREADY.
[7] Trips to the beach, the snuggie, Judas Priest at the OC Fair, Susan Boyle singing that song from Les Miz
[8] Two kids in diapers, three six months of very little sleep, the flu (twice), Susan Boyle singing that song from Les Miz
[9]Panic , misery, back pain, and hormones
[10] How the heck will we fit all these kids in a Honda CRV? Or in a shopping cart, for that matter?
[11] Lowered standards, caffeine, earplugs, and boxed wine from Target
[12] Because after they all leave, that 1300 sq. ft. house that previously felt so cramped will feel like a sprawling mansion
[13] Haiti is technically in the Caribbean . . . right?
[14] Oh, the sense memory of bug spray, burning trash, and sweltering 80% humidity
[15] And that was a surprisingly accurate prediction of my current state.
[16] Stop laughing
[17] Okay, in actuality he loves sports, Transformers, guns, video games, and pretty much everything I’ve tried to steer him away from.
[18] We got offers to sell raffle tickets, to sell pancake breakfast tickets, and to run the snack bar. Go team!
[19] At least on M/W/F mornings, that is. I’m not above lying on the preschool application to get a little “me time.”
[20] Although, so far our experience has been that 3 is the new 2. Or the new 13. Or the new Bipolar Disorder.
[21] Actual parenting technique we’ve employed with #3: Simmer down over there. I’ve got other kids to deal with.
[22] Oh man, these inside mommy jokes are funny to like THREE PEOPLE!
[23] But he would like to disclose that Tiger Woods was NOT one of them.
[24] Although, with the addition of the third kid, right now his enjoyment of golf usually involves watching it on tv.
[25] Because I spend enough of my time breaking up fights between family members, thank you very much.
[26] Putting a video on for the kids while I play on facebook
[27] And when I say blogging is paying the bills, I’m referring of course to the cable bill.
[28] Nope. That’s actually not a joke. But please try to look a little less surprised that I’m doing something athletic.
[29] Please check it out and consider supporting me. www.heartlinerunners.blogspot.com
[30] Hey Kristen, it’s Kanye. I’m gonna let you finish, but 2005’s Fabulous Fabulous Lives© was the best Christmas letter of all time!