Dear Family and Friends,

This is my real Christmas letter. I spent days planning and hours writing my other Christmas letter, and it was actually pretty good, but the audience reaction was not what I wanted. Lisa said something like, “That’ll really cheer everyone up.” And while it’s not my goal just to cheer you up, I see her point. Even in a year that wasn’t always cheery (maybe something less-than-wonderful occurred in your life, too), Christmas is a time for hope and a time to remember why it’s all worthwhile.Let’s get it out of the way from the start. It’s public record that I’m making less money than last year. If you want to read more about it, check out some stories on or my other Christmas letter. (more photos, too)

While events outside of my control have helped to dictate some of how I felt this year, it certainly did not make the year terrible as a whole, and I’m really not awfully depressed or anything. In fact, I feel that there is hope for our state, our schools, and even my career. I know, however, that our family is full of hope, even if both kids are learning more, which may eventually lead to sassiness or cynicism.

Lisa loves baking piesLisa is still working for our church. She's able to work from home a lot and take on tasks that are meaningful to herself and the congregation. I’d get into details, but then she’d tell me I was missing some important aspect of her job, and then I’d say that she should write about it herself, and then she’d tell me just to not write anything at all anyhow. Then I’d say that it’s a Christmas letter and not a resume right before she’d remind me that I always tell people about my website building business (contact me if you want a cheap website that looks expensive; seriously). So that’s her job at Immanuel.

Lisa also continues to work out and eat healthy, which means she looks younger than the age I won’t mention she is. In fact, we were at the bank the other day and the teller looked at Lisa’s license and said, “Ooh, they owe you a new picture!” I try to maintain my cool when it comes to Lisa preparing healthy alternatives to the food I like. I can remember a couple of times when we ate something with either beets or spinach (maybe both) mixed in that made me want to go to bed hungry, but I normally try to pretend that I’m at a fancy restaurant in Eastern Europe or hanging out with hippies in a tent village.

Lisa’s also continuing to be a great mom to Helena and James. She’s generally in charge when I leave for school in the morning, and as far as I can tell, everyone seems to get picked up, dropped off, or taken care of as scheduled. Well, one day Helena missed the bus and Lisa got all upset about it. 4K  is really  like watching a soap opera for most kids: you could miss a week or two and still pretty much know what’s going on. However, Lisa is an organized person, and I can understand her frustration with a bus that has a schedule that changes a bit from day to day.

Helena riding the bus has mostly been a good idea, and Lisa can avoid driving every day, especially in the snow. Luckily, Helena ended up on a short bus with seat belts and a nice driver, so it’s all good. Besides, from what I can tell, nobody really wears activator-drenched Jheri curl hairstyles on the bus anymore, so Helena doesn’t have to avoid grease-saturated headrests like I did back in the day.

Helena began 4K at the Milwaukee German Immersion School this fall. As parents, we had a very difficult decision to make: she could have gone to Immanuel (our church’s school), she got into a Montessori school, and I kind of wanted her to attend the French Immersion School. However, after weighing all the options, locations, and opportunities, we decided to send her to the German school. As expected, she's learning the language. Initially, I wanted to try to keep up with her, but I have trouble learning all the songs, and I sound bad enough singing in English. I’m actually pretty good already at talking in English with a German accent, which is a lot easier than learning a whole new language.

When I ask Helena about school, she says she has fun there and likes her teachers. She's made friends from various backgrounds while learning about another culture in that language. Of course, she's going to have a different perspective of who her neighbors are than many Americans, and that's kind of the point. Helena has also continued her Rec. Department classes, and this year she's taken tap, gymnastics,  ballet, cheerleading, and  swimming. She loved tap the most, I think, which makes sense, since there are all kinds of practical uses for it. Then again, I suppose I'd be disappointed if she took a welding class and loved that and started her career as a welder in the spring. Her classes are great for meeting new people and honing her skills as a teacher's pet, so we see every class as a worthwhile experience.

James, however, is still sometimes in his own little world, but it seems like a lot of fun, so I don't want to wake him up to any of the harsh realities just yet. For example, whenever he's in a decent mood, his mode of transport is to skip. Across the room or around the block, he'll just skip. He also seems to enjoy counting, writing letters and numbers, and singing, sometimes incessantly. He gets that from his sister.  Lisa likes to sing, too, but her singing is always angelic and never annoying, except for very rare occasions, like when I’m trying to watch an important ball game or something.

When I asked James what he did this year, he said, “I had a snack at Sunday school and played a little bit and did a craft. I like to hide under the table and eat food. I washed hands and played a little more.”  Actually, his statement is pretty consistent with what he does most days. If he graduates high school and makes the right friends, maybe he'll be able to keep the same schedule as governor of our state. A father can dream.

One of James’s most recent pastimes has been creating new words. My favorite was “snosh, “ as in, “That raging party you threw last night was totally snosh, Homeslice!” or “You think I’m cute? That’s snosh.” Anyhow, James made the word up and used it in context for about a week, and then he stopped using it in favor of some potty-sounding word, like “eeech,” or “noony.” I tried to get him to accept how snosh the word snosh was, but he ignored me and hasn’t used it in over a month.

We hope that your Holidays are pretty snosh this year and that the new year brings all of us a new perspective on life, maybe one that encourages us to look past the negatives we can’t avoid. I hope a little humor brightened your year just a bit. If so, please try to help someone else this Christmas.


Brian, Lisa, Helena, and James



Speaking of helping others out, please click on some links on this page to help support me in my efforts to make some spending money off my writing.

See more of my writing on Amazon