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. 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. 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, 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). Jafta concluded our evening with a stirring rendition of Silent Night on his dulcimer, and then he and India performed the pas de deux from The Nutcracker. Just a typical night in the Howerton house. As we sit and reflect back on the year, I think it’s fair to say it was marked by some highs and some lows. 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. On April 26th, we welcomed Karis Jade Howerton into the world,. We had a brief adjustment period, but I can safely say that we have finally found our new baseline as a family of five. 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. 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. Just thinking of the sights and sounds of that tropical island remind me of so many memories from the last 3 years. 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. Thank goodness I am a patient, laid-back person who doesn’t mind ambiguity. 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. He got the chance to play on his first baseball league, and let me tell you, the offers just came rolling in. 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. 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. 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. We’ve figured out how to do her tummy time in a sling, and I feed her “on demand” at precise 3-hour intervals. 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. He loves his flexible schedule and spending time with the kids, and continues to enjoy golf. I have taken a little break from seeing clients during this season. 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. 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. In my spare time, I also decided to train for a 1/2 marathon. I’m running the Disney World half in January, and I’m raising money for an amazing ministry in Haiti. As always, we are grateful for your friendship and support, and thankful you’ve taken the time to read up on our antics. We hope you have a wonderful New Year! ~The Howerton Family
Merry Christmas! 
The kids are finally in bed after a full day of building snowmen and delivering toys to needy children. We sang a rousing medley of traditional Christmas hymns gathered around our grand piano, before having each child quote Luke 2 from memory.
I am now cuddled by the fire, while Mark hovers over me, watching me drift into sleep. His cold, pale skin is offset by his sinuous muscles and amber eyes, and he whispers to me in a voice as smooth as silk, while the electricity of sexual tension sparks a heat between us that belies the winter chill.
It has been an eventful year. Mark passed his licensing exam at the beginning of the year, and he is now an official Marriage and Family Therapist! It was a big step to leave his nine-year run at Rock Harbor Church, but Mark was ready to branch out on his own. Mark is now in full-time private practice, and we are all adjusting to seeing him wear “grown up clothes” to work every day. He is very happy with his new job, and comes home every day telling me how much he loves this work. I am loving his new flexible schedule, and spending our first Christmas in 12 years without the responsibilities of being on staff at a church!
This was a year of change and experiencing new things. This year I found a new hobby: blogging. I try to write every day, and pepper my inspirational musings with stunning photography, made-from scratch recipes, and reflections on my exquisite homemaking skills and crafting abilities. I also started a mommy blog with my friend Ali, called Mama Manifesto. It’s a great way to supplement my income I am still working as a part-time therapist and gearing up for another semester of teaching at Vanguard University.
I am excited to announce, three short years later, that we were able to finalize Jafta’s adoption this May. In other long, drawn-out adoption news, we also visited Haiti again in the spring. We are still hoping to adopt a little boy there and we took both kids on this trip so that they could meet their brother-to-be. We are hoping and praying he will come home some time next year. When we returned from Haiti, I was surprised to find out that I was carrying a new life inside me, one that was making me very nauseous but nonetheless continuing to thrive.
Over the summer, Mark and I celebrated our 12th anniversary by taking a cruise with some other couple friends. There is nothing like a grand stateroom and a trip to an exotic location to rekindle the romance. This summer we also got to visit the Seattle Howertons, along with the rest of Mark’s family, and later played host to our nephews visiting from Florida. My kids love their cousins and we love seeing them grow closer with every trip.
The kids had a great year and continue to meet new milestones. India auditioned for the terrible two’s for months, but thankfully once she had her birthday in October, she appeared to enter into a whole new developmental stage. She is obsessed with ballet and cheerleading, and may be the youngest girl ever to have a crush on Troy from High School Musical. Jafta spent the year asking acting like a typical 3-year-old (constant, neverending questions)  despite being the size of a typical 6-year-old . He started a new preschool this fall with his best friend Ryder, and he is learning so much that I’m constantly amazed at what he retains. It’s hard to believe he turns 4 at the end of the year.
The biggest surprise this year was learning that we are expecting again – a little girl will make her arrival in April. I spent my first trimester in the blissful state of an expectant mother, with a renewed sense of purpose and glow of impending life. 
All in all, it’s been a great year for us. In November, I was emotional to witness the ushering in of a historical event that I never thought I would see in this lifetime.  Mark and I also got to take a trip by ourselves this fall for a last hurrah before our brood grows from two to four. We are excited and a little overwhelmed to think that next year, we will be the parents to four kids four and under. But we love it, and feel very blessed to have such amazing friends and family.
We wish you the best this coming year.
The Howerton Clan
Mark, Kristen, Jafta, + India
Unless you are Jewish, Atheist, or Agnostic. In which case we mean Happy Holidays. I mean, we’re down with Christmas. But we don’t want to alienate anyone. But we’re not embarrassed to be Christians. But we want to be PC to our non-Christian friends. Crap. If you are already offended, you should probably stop reading right now.
 Okay, our evening involved some Tivo’d cartoons, a few rushed books, bathtime, and then a couple tantrums before wrangling the kids into bed, after which I heard Mark mutter the phrase, “I would like to pimp-slap these two right now.”
 Oh, I’m sorry. Was that paragraph awkward? I read the Twilight series this year and I guess I’m still identifying with the romantic prose of young adult vampire novels. My IQ is in recovery. Pray for me.
 Yes, he really flew the nest. Into a new office right across the street from the Rock Harbor offices.
 He has ventured into the brave new territory of ironing and dry cleaning, instead of wearing surf tees and board shorts to work. He’s all growed up!
 The sign of a true extrovert – spending all day talking to people and feeling refreshed at the end. Mark is the anti-Kristen
 And some things that are best forgotten. Like when I succumbed to wearing Crocs.
 Hobby, diversion, colossal waste of time. Call it what you will.
 Stop laughing. Alright, it’s mostly snarky tales of my day where I mock myself, my children, and others.
 If you can consider getting random samples of DVD’s and diaper bags income supplementation. Mark does not.
 We are working on breaking a record for “longest adoptions ever”. And this was a fast-track case according to LA County.
 That’s right. I caught a Guardia parasite in Haiti!! What did you think I meant?
 A 6×6 prison cell with a porthole and a toilet practically on top of the bed
 The cruise was to Ensenada. We got off the boat, walked by several pharmacies selling Viagra, bars blaring techno music in the middle of the day, and curio shops full of boob mugs and Bikini Inspector t-shirts. Five minutes later we got back on the boat. Viva la Mexico!
 During which I realized that my house might be a tad bit small for four children.
 India stuck a cheerio up her nose, and Jafta has improved his aim and only pees over half the shower curtain now
 She skipped right ahead to her pre-teen years. Either that, or she has rapid cycling Bipolar disorder. Hard to say.
 i.e. she throws a fit if she’s not wearing her tutu and a certain blue bow she has deemed a “cheerleader bow”
 Does superman have to put lotion on his eczema every night, too?
 Prompting mommy to contemplate starting a line of t-shirts for large children, with sayings like “I’m big for my age, please lower your expectations accordingly”
 Like his classmates teaching him the names of every character of the Star Wars movie, how to make a gun out of Legos, and how to sing the playground classic Nanny Nanny Boo Boo. Oh, and I think he learned some letters . . . ?
 A mother experiencing crippling nausea, fatigue, daily progesterone shots, and a healthy dose of panic and anxiety,
 Yep. Mark joined Facebook.
Merry Christmas! Mark and I just unbundled the kids from their snowsuits and gloves, brushing the snow out of their hair from making snow angels. We had a rousing evening of snowball fights, followed by some door-to-door caroling in our neighborhood. We are now huddled by the fire, and India is singing excerpts from Handel’s Messiah as Jafta accompanies her on the guitar.
It’s been a good but trying year. In our Fabulous Fabulous Lives© 2005, we announced the judge had ordered Jafta was legally free for adoption. Well, funny story. At the beginning of this year, we received the news that the decision was overturned due to some mistakes made by LA County DCFS, and we were told we could have a “Losing Isaiah” situation. Naturally, we had complete faith in the system and tried our best to keep our cool as we walked through the court process again. So, two years later, I am happy to announce that as of November, Jafta is AGAIN legally free for adoption!
Jafta spent the past year in the terrible two’s – and we found that it wasn’t all that terrible! He’s quite the chatterbox and likes to ask lots of questions that are easy and fun to answer He enjoys watching independent films, reading contemporary fiction, and eating vegetables. He will be starting preschool in January, and after much research we feel we have found the best possible environment to prepare him for academic success in college. Jafta is growing up so fast and it’s been fun to see him hit so many big-boy milestones.
India has morphed from a baby to an independent, playful toddler. She is walking, climbing, and shrieking her way through the whole house. She wants nothing to do with age-appropriate toys and spends her days emptying cupboards, drawers, purses and wallets. She is the smiliest baby ever, and can be seen waving at anyone who crosses her path. She is a master at baby signs, and she enjoys music classes, playgroup, and story time at our local bookstore. 
Mark continues to specialize in addiction, running the recovery ministry at Rock Harbor and doing counseling at a local rehab. He has also started a private counseling practice and has finally completed the hours needed to sit for the Marriage and Family Therapy licensing exam.
I have been enjoying the day-to-day activities of motherhood. I have been trying to embrace the concept of simplicity and find time for myself in each day. I continue to work part-time, seeing clients at Journeys Counseling and teaching in the grad psych department at Vanguard University. In my spare time I send text messages to friends and try to read books that don’t have pictures.
Mark and I were able to travel to Haiti twice this year, and spent some time at an orphanage. I would be lying if I said we didn’t have some ulterior motives in that visit, and we are hoping and praying it will be possible for us to adopt a child from that orphanage. It will be a long process, but we are no strangers to waiting for God to build our family!
This year, we took a mission trip to Mexico, and braved Orlando over Thanksgiving. We do our best to introduce the kids to culture. We’ve taken them to an art gallery, dined in a five-star restaurant, and traveled by plane with both kids. It’s such a relief to know that we are still able to enjoy the finer things in life, even as a family.
That’s all for now. I need to get busy if I want these kids to have Luke 2 memorized by Monday. Hope you all have a Merry, Merry Christmas!
Mark, Kristen, Jafta, and India
 Okay, none of that is true. But there was a toy fight – and Jafta is trying to play drums on India’s head.
 The writer’s strike has really cut into our enjoyment of The Office.
 Funny if you thought the California wildfires were hilarious
 Department of Complete Freakin’ Stupidity.
 Yes, a social worker actually referenced a 1995 Hallie Berry movie to deliver this news to us
 Hired an attorney and threatened to sue
 And if by our Christmas Letter 2010 his adoption is not finalized, I may be writing this from a padded cell
 We found terrible to be a mild, inadequate description of the pure and total insanity of raising a two-year-old boy.
 Like, “Why can’t I fly, mommy?”and “What is echo in Spanish?” and “What are the Beatles singing about?”
 Alright, he likes watching Backyardigans, reading Dr. Seuss, and eating McDonalds. We’ve totally sold out.
 Oh, please. This is preschool. Criteria: who will entertain my kid for the longest chunk of time for the least money?
 Potty training: check. Small foreign object placed in nose: check. Clogging toilet by flushing large toy: check
 Somehow I have the feeling she will be emptying our wallets for many, many years to come
 Usually choosing to flirt with the homeless guy at Starbucks or the scary gangster at the gas station.
Let’s hope her tastes improve by her teenage years.
 Yes, her social life is blossoming while mine is slowly, sadly fading.
 Starbucks addiction, golf addiction, talking about real estate addiction
 And with role models like Britney and Lindsay, business is booming. Thanks, girls!
 Who doesn’t love doing laundry, changing diapers, wiping noses, and cleaning food off the floor?
 I actually got to use the restroom in privacy two times last week. It’s all about self-care.
 Because who has time for an actual conversation?
 Hello? Duty-free Kahlua!!!!
 Because, sadly, we believe that adopting from Haiti, the poorest and most volatile country in the
Western Hemisphere, will be less risky than adopting from the US fostercare system again.
 Where both our kids simultaneously puked all over the floor
 Where India had a diaper blowout and left the restaurant wearing only a 300-thread-count cloth napkin
 Where the folks in the row ahead of us sampled Jafta’s drumming skills on the back of their chairs
 Life Lesson from 2007: you can ALWAYS find room in the budget for babysitting
Fabulous, Fabulous Lives 2006
Ah, Christmas. As I write this letter, Mark and I are sitting in front of a fire in our matching flannel pajamas, sipping hot cider mulled from spices in our garden. The kids are asleep for the night, tuckered out from singing carols by the piano after a large home-cooked meal, and Mark and I are doing our evening affirmations.
But let’s start from the beginning. This time last year, we were adjusting to being new parents. In February, we got a huge surprise – that we were expecting number two! It was a little disappointing to realize I wouldn’t be able to make the Boston Marathon just weeks before my due date, but I just set my sights on some smaller runs in the OC area. It was fun experiencing pregnancy and witnessing the amazing process of growing a child.
Because we love flying with a toddler, we did a fair share of traveling before our little bundle arrived. We visited my family in Florida in March, and then spent a week in West Palm Beach. In June, we went to Austin, Texas to do some upkeep on our vacation home there. We spent a week in Acapulco with Mark’s parents, and did quite a few weekend getaways to Palm Springs over the summer. In July, we celebrated on tenth wedding anniversary with a ceremony at a quaint castle in a picturesque village in Italy, attended by Will Smith, Brooke Shields, and J-Lo.
On October 7th, we welcomed little India Jasmine into the world. I had an amazing natural childbirth at a hospital in Laguna Beach with an ocean view. India had a little bout with jaundice and had to be in the hospital a few extra days, but we kept this in perspective and were just happy to have her home whenever she came. Mark had his sabbatical in the month of November, so we had some great family time together.
Life with two has been quite an adjustment, but Jafta is pretty pleased with his new little sister. Jafta has grown up so much since last year. He has a bright, silly personality and loves to entertain us with singing, playing the piano, and jumping off the coffee table. He is talking up a storm. It’s hard to believe he will be turning two just after Christmas. We love watching India’s emerging personality, and thankfully she has a mellow, easygoing temperament just like her mommy. It’s hard work, but when the crying stops, there are many moments where we look at these two blessings and thank God they are in our lives.
We hope you had a great holiday season and wish you all the best in the coming year!
Love, Mark and Kristen Howerton
 Okay, we’re in front of the tv, wearing spit-up covered sweats, and drinking . . . well, let’s just say it ain’t cider.
 Is it bad to feed a toddler Lean Cuisine?
 Why are you laughing? I could have done that. You don’t know me.
 Like, ice-cream runs, pizza runs, pretzel runs, etc.
 I’ve always wanted cankles, stretch marks, and weird cravings for Horchata
 If you turn the ipod up loud enough, you can’t hear the screaming. Or the complaining from the people sitting in front of you getting kicked in the back and patted on the head by a squirmy toddler.
 ghetto fourplex on the wrong side of town
 Alright, TomKat totally stole our idea. So we just did a little backyard thing.
 And naturally, I begged for an epidural after spending 40 minutes in the birthing tub and realizing this “pain-free childbirth” business was a load of crock. Shout out to my homeboy Steve the Anesthesiologist!
 Or completely freaked out. But hey, she got a nice glow from the tanning bed in the NICU.
 And I find evidence of this daily when I wipe off the remains of a slobbery, cracker-crusted kiss from her hair.
 Sometimes we can even understand what he’s saying! Unfortunately, he can pronounce “cookie” just fine.
 Actually, it’s not hard to believe at all. I think he’s been auditioning for the terrible two’s for a few months now.
 Okay, okay. She gets that from her daddy. Thank the Lord!!
 It’s nice when the kids stop crying, too.
FABULOUS, FABULOUS LIVES 2005
But let’s start from the beginning. We rang in this year, and my 30th birthday, with a party on New Year’s Eve. A few days later, Mark was back under the knife having the first of two reconstructive surgeries on his leg. He had the second last month – so he started and ended the year on crutches.
In March we completed the process we had started last year to become a certified Foster Home, and began the wait for a child. I continued to work part-time as a Design Associate at Room & Board, but decided it was time to leave in May. I enjoyed my little diversion into Interior Design, but have continued to work with Journeys Counseling as my “real job”, and Mark is still with Rock Harbor Church, running their recovery program.
In the Spring we also took a trip to New York with some friends, and of course, to catch up on our Broadway shows. I was so inspired that I decided to pursue yet another career option that has nothing to do with my expensive graduate degree whose loans I am still paying off. I auditioned for South Coast Rep’s Conservatory, and got admitted into their summer acting program. With such illustrious graduates as Will Ferrell and “that guy from Lois & Clark”, it was an honor to be a part of the program, and also very challenging for this out-of-practice thespian. And let me tell you, since my performance in the final show, the offers have been pouring in. 
And now, for the big news– in July we got THE CALL for a six-month-old baby boy!! We brought Jafta home after traveling a long distance to a foreign land with strange and different cultural practices, but knew he would be the perfect fit for our family. Jafta has been such a blessing to our lives.
We were initially fost/adopt parents, which meant that we were foster parents who would be eligible for adoption. The more we got to know Jafta, the more we were filled with anxiety over the thought of not being able to adopt him. We have truly fallen head over heels for this little boy, and we are excited to tell you that as of December 22nd, he is now legally free for adoption! We are overjoyed. The finalization process will probably take another year, and we would love your prayers that this will go through the court system quickly.
Becoming parents has been such a fun transition for us. We are constantly amazed at Jafta’s emerging personality. His favorite things to do include pulling up on the coffee table, walking around the house holding on to our hands, playing peek-a-boo, and Einsteining. Jafta is also quite the little drummer, so we got him a full-size drum set for his first birthday to encourage his musical abilities.
In October, Mark had his final surgery, and came home from a week’s hospital stay on Halloween, just in time to see Jafta dressed in his bear costume. Taking care of baby with Mark unable to walk again brought on a whole new set of challenges. But we are very happy that this final surgery brings this chapter of our life to a close. We will be spending the holidays with family in Florida, and we are looking forward to a calmer, surgery-free ’06.
Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support over the past few years in our journey to start a family. We are so thankful for a beautiful son, our health, Mark’s full recovery, and amazing family and friends who have carried us through.
Love, Kristen and Mark
 You guessed it! WE GOT TiVO!!!!
 Yep, 30. It’s all a big joke until it happens to you.
 And, unfortunately, on the old blue Lazyboy on loan from
the in-laws for his recovery. That thing WILL be burned in ’06!!
 Since I had run out of things to buy with my discount
 If we were talking in person I would have used “air quotes” here. I think it makes me look cool.
 Ah, sweet discontent of youth . . . sweet occupational angst. It’s cute in your 20’s, but now, not so much. I’m lucky my husband is such a good sport – and so rich!!