Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Merry Christmas! 

First off, I would like to apologize for the change in delivery and format.  In the middle of all our many incredible blessings this holiday season, our printer "passed away".  So, this has forced me to publish an e-version of our Christmas letter.  I know not everyone is comfortable navigating the "web" or even has access to Internet in their home, so to those of you who took the extra time and effort to read this, "Thank You".

I am writing this the morning after hosting our first Wittenberg Neighborhood Christmas Party! The simple pleasures of celebrating the season, singing carols, and enjoying good food in the atmosphere of our own home is yet another blessing to be thankful for.  Eugene and I have come to appreciate and enjoy our friends that surround us here on Summit St. in Wittenberg.  We thank God every day for allowing us the privilege to serve him in such a beautiful setting, surrounded by such wonderful people.  We continue to seek His will, longing to share His love with those around us.

To one or two of you who have a genuine interest in the part of our family classified under "Animal Kingdom", here are a few tid-bits.  The cats have been removed to a country farm.  They were confusing the dirty laundry and the litter box.  Not acceptable.  So, since one of the cats had belonged to Jubal, he was re-gifted with 2 gerbils on his birthday.  We ended up with one of each gender and I suffered a mild heart-attack when I did some research and found out that they breed every 20 -30 days!  Jubal was pumped.  He kept saying, "Well, I'm expecting pups any day now!" But alas, no pups. The female must be barren. 
Kin-Ring is faring well, and is taking to streaking out of the house whenever the door opens a crack.  He now is receiving a special correctional collar for Christmas.  Needless to say, he's in for a surprise. Parmalee The Bunny is doing well, hopping about the house whenever Kin is outside.

As usual, 2012 brought some changes to our family dynamics.  The most important event was Eugene's mother, Louise, moving in.  This has such a blessing to our family and and any adjustment that has needed to be made has been for the better.  The laundry is organized and done in a more timely fashion (thanks to Louise), Reuben and Elsa have their own private reading tutor, and the children have a non-critic in the house when practicing their music. (Yes, I can be a little overbearing/critical after so many years of lessons.)  Louise has sat through many an impromptu drum session that makes me want to break drum sticks and hands, yet she responds with nothing but praise; amazed at the talent.  (She does agree with me that all the children are in need of hearing-aids, so together we have threatened the kids that if they don't start listening better, they will be the only residents in town under the age of 60 wearing these devices super glued in their ears!) The children are enjoying having Grandma Louise with us and have spend many late nights talking with Grandma in her room long after Eugene and I have retired for the evening.  What a blessing that they will have a relationship with her that few are privileged to have with their grandparents.

Simeon turned 15 in October and is wearing his fathers shoes.  Literally.  He is in 9th grade and doing very well in his studies.  He is enjoying an on-line class this year, reading and discussing books such as The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, A Tale of Two Cities, Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and many other great literary works.    His teacher has been very pleased with his written assignments and level of discussion/participation, and needless to say, Eugene and I have been very pleased with the opportunities that this class has afforded him. Simeon is doing well in his violin studies and now plays with  the Wausau Area Youth Symphony.  He really enjoys this opportunity and is excelling more than ever.  He has ski fever now that we have snow, and is out in the back yard every spare moment sculpting his terrain park.  Update: I caught him snowboarding off the garage roof today as Marilla was filming his recklessness.

Marilla also had her birthday in October turning 13. She is a lover of Jane Austin books and is reading Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for the second time this year.  She is a huge help around the house and even did some of the Christmas baking this year.  (Her spritz cookies were beautiful!)  She is doing well in her 7th grade studies, and is taking on the challenge of teaching Andie to read.  She loves playing the piano and will spend hours playing and singing various church choruses.  She did take a few classical piano pieces to the State Competition level, but did not place.  (One of the judges noted that she was tapping her foot while playing...drat that foot tapping!)  She has picked up a regular babysitting job in addition to her dog walking, and is learning time management skills due to the fact that this job is from 9 - 12 in the morning, during reg school hours.  Ahh...real world skills!  Much to her delight, she is learning French this year, and enjoying the challenges that go with it.

Jubal is 11, an avid reader, master of retaining information and obsessed with LEGO's 24/7.  He's plodding along in his piano, being kept afloat by performances.  He loves performing and the accolades that go with it, but the everyday practice; not so much. ( I've seen some of the other kids struggle with this and I just have to be willing to keep pushing them until they get over the hump and embrace it themselves....not a party, but worth it.....someday.)  Jubal has forged ahead this year into the job market with his own business.  He has a few "clients", as he refers to them, who pay him to return their empty trash cans to their garages after the garbage truck makes its rounds.  He is very faithful in this little job and is looking to acquire even more responsibilities in the neighborhood.  I have noticed a new level of responsibility in his schooling in just the past month and am very encouraged with this trend.  Being able to move from one subject to the next without prompting is a huge step in the right direction and Eugene and I are thankful for this.
Overheard Conversation:
Jubal: Marilla, if you let me use your Nook e-reader tonight, I'll let you use it when ever you want to.
Marilla: Jubal, it's mine.  I can use it when ever I want.

Elsa is still retaining the office of  Local Viking Princess.  She is in her 9th year of this position and no competitors have challenged her.  She is loving her violin and is in the Jr. WAYS group at the Conservatory.  This younger version of the Wausau Area Youth Symphony is a much smaller group but has been a great source of musical education and opportunity for Elsa.  She looks forward every week to getting together with her little friends to playing their instruments together.  She is a budding artist and impresses us every day with her artistic talent.  We would have to build a new wing on the house just to hold all her drawings and paintings.  She is really improving in her reading and has moved onto chapter books, but only while reading to Grandma!  (Thank God for Louise!) We are still waiting for all this talent and ability to transfer into "Bedroom Cleaning" but, I have a feeling we're going to be waiting for a long time to see any enthusiasm in this area.

Reuben is loving 1st grade and is a little math whizz working on multiplication, division, and fractions!  He also enjoys reading to Grandma Louise and is always rewarded with a piece of chocolate or candy when he has done his best!  (Yes, there are days when Grandma withholds the treat knowing that he could have tried harder and I'm thankful for her discernment and consistency, but this has only happened a few times.  He's a quick learner.)  Reuben is a snuggler and being 7 has not diminished this urge at all.  He loves to get a few moments of good snuggle time in with his mom each day and is not embarrassed at all to remind her.  He baffles the household with his consistent diet of brown bread, P.B. apples, beans and his love of steamed broccoli. He and Simeon share a twin size bed as he does not like to sleep alone and he loves his oldest brother.  Simeon in return, is very kind to him, building LEGO's and reading to him at night. Reuben really enjoys playing piano and is progressing quite nicely, not needing much prompting to practice. *Whew*

Andie is 6 and has turned into a little speed demon on her bike.  This graduation from training wheels has turned my stomach more that once. She loves to pedal down the sidewalk as fast as she can and then try to pull a few "moves" on her bike all the while the handle bars are wobbling violently and she's looking to see if we're watching! Good Grief.  Talk about an early grave; for the both of us!  She is quite the giggler and weeper, mastering "Hurt Feelings".  She loves Reuben and Elsa and the three of them make quite a team.  Her front teeth are finally coming in, after years of missing at least one or both, which is resulting in her looking cuter than ever.  She takes violin lessons along with Simeon and Elsa, and even played with the other five siblings as they played "Carol of the Bells" in 6 parts for the annual Christmas Concert at the Conservatory.  She is learning to read this year and enjoying all the new books that are being read to her that came with her curriculum. A favorite of hers is the James Harriot Collection for Children, she loves these gentle stories about animals and their country vet.  For some strange reason she feels quite comfortable in telling Grandma Louise what to do and how things work around our home.  Andie informed us that since she is no longer the latest addition to the family, now that Grandma has moved in, she ranks higher in the pecking order and therefore can give supervision and guidance to our latest family member. Thankfully Grandma has accepted this with good humor.

Eugene is still working for Liberty Mutual and I am still working for The Family.  Both jobs are rewarding, but mine has better benefits. 

Eugene bought a used pop-up camper this fall and we went on our first All-Family camping trip in October.  My mom, my sister Eliza and her family, and my brother Josh with his wife and kids were all there and other than the incident of Reuben getting separated from the other boys and biking 2 miles to a Ranger Station, we had a blast! ( He mentioned to me that he was scared, but that he asked Jesus to help him.)  5 Adults and 13 kids. The kids enjoyed it so much they were planning more camping trips before the week was even over! We are so thankful for such a wonderful family to share these beautiful memories with! (Ignore the man in the gray pants behind the log, he's my sister-in-law's husband.)
In closing, to repeat the words of William Wadsworth Longfellow:

"God is not dead, nor does he sleep....", and Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
It is of the utmost importance during this season of happiness for some, and yet grief for others, that we remember and lean on the ultimate truth of the Scripture.  That is to put God in his rightful place and stay in ours.  God is never surprised by the circumstances that surprise and grieve us. He is still God.  He is still in control and he is still on His throne.  Yes, He was that infant born in a cattle feeding trough many years ago...but before that, he was the WORD speaking our world in to existence and forming man out of dust, creating galaxies we have yet to discover and ocean depths yet to be explored. Job 38:4 "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding."  Who are we to question God?  Who are we to doubt the scripture?   Romans 9:20, "...O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"   Isaiah 29:16 ".... for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? Is it possible that our Creator is more knowledgeable that his creation?  Is it possible that we have erred, not Him?  I would encourage all of us during this season to once again, seek after Christ.  Instead of questioning Him and His ways, let us respond to Him and His offer of salvation. 

Down from His glory,
Ever living story,
My God and Savior came,
And Jesus was His Name.
Born in a manger,
To His own a stranger,
A Man of sorrows, tears and agony.

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all.
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God's fullness dwelleth in Him.

What condescension,
Bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night,
Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender,
Laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all.
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God's fullness dwelleth in Him.

Without reluctance,
Flesh and blood His substance,
He took the form of man,
Revealed the hidden plan,
O glorious myst'ry
Sacrifice of Calv'ry,
And now I know Thou art the great 'I Am'

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus- We're so glad you came, The Von Hadens


  1. I always enjoy reading your Christmas Letter. Not only do your words share with us the fruits of your efforts...your children's behavior, attitude and spirit do too. I'm sure a house that full has it's challenges, but you seem to manage them quite well! Merry Christmas from our house to yours. Blessings from Ringle.

  2. My Christmas Season is now complete- The VonHaden Christmas letter is read and my Krcma candy is eaten *sigh* We love the VonHadens !

    1. Haha! I know what you mean about the "Krcma Kandy"! Thanks for the kind words.

  3. What a nice letter. I love the "year in review" of your family (a family that the Ritchies love). We miss seeing you every week and think of you often. Mary and I have driven past your house on a number of occasions this last year just to check on you but never stopped in. Kind'a nervous about stopping the last time I stopped by Jubal tried to throw a lasso around me...must be all the Hank the Cow Dog books.

    Lord Bless You

    1. Hmmm, I'm kind of nervous now.....and I'd feel better if you'd just stop in! We miss seeing you also! You're one of the most encouraging preachers that I know and love! God Bless you and Sis Mary.

  4. The kids are growing up so fast! I think of you all every time we walk by your old place, and how Elsa always drew out pronouncing Ripley's name when they saw us out walking. I miss our afternoon walks and talks!

  5. Thanks Jamie! I miss our walks too and so does Kin :) Let's get together this spring and take the dogs out again.