Dear Ones,

Christmas Joy to you from the House of Zenz! We hope this Year-in-Review family update finds your halls decked and your season jolly. Here’s the latest news from our holly laden corridors…

Amity continues to love her life as a full-time mom. And this year, things have gotten fuller – literally. She should continue to get fuller and fuller until some time around mid-May, at which point she’ll stop hogging our new little addition to herself and share with the rest of us. Isaac has dubbed the wee one "Taga Tooter" until he or she arrives – at least we hope the name will change when he or she arrives…

Amity has found that a curious side effect built into the life of a parent is that one often hears the strangest things coming out of one’s own mouth. Here are a few of the things she and I have heard ourselves saying recently:

"No, first drink the milk out of your cup, THEN get the noodle out of the bottom."
"Why is there a pickle stuck to the bottom of my sock?"
"Isaac, get – on – the – potty."
"Why are all the pencil erasers bitten off?"
"Gracie, get out – of – the – potty."
"Why does the diaper Gracie's wearing have scissor-holes cut out of it?"
"Yuh-huh… Superman 'would to' clean up the living room..."

Isaac, now 3, is an amazing ball of growing wonder. He soaks up any and all information he can, and he marvels at even the finest details of God's creation.

Recently Isaac has also taken an interest in letters and numbers, and we've tried to encourage him. He can identify many letters, but the phonetics aspect is still difficult for him. The other day we were going over the letter "i". While Isaac listened intently, I told him, "the letter 'i' is for words like 'i - i - Icecream' and 'i - i - Icicle'." "Oh," he replied, "'i' is for 'Arf-cream' and 'Popsicle'?" I didn't correct him. It'll be a sad day when he stops saying "arf-cream"…

I love Isaac's tender heart. We were relaying the Christmas story to him again, and reached the point where Herod planned to capture baby Jesus by tricking the wise men. In horror, Isaac sprung up shouting, "I'll save him!" He leaped to the nativity scene across the room, snatched up the manger, and held it to his chest in tight little fists.

(Oh, and instead of saying the word "suspenders," Isaac pronounces it "Mister Bungers." I’m not sure how to work that into a story. But he calls them his "Mr. Bungers.")

Little Gracie, 17 months old, has turned into quite a talker herself. She adores her brother and calls him "I-zee". But most often she refers to him as "Bruh-bruh" (brother) which happens to have been her first word. She knows a plethora of animal sounds and all words crucial for communication, including: "Ti-tu" (thank-you), "Peee" (please), "Uppa, uppa" (up or down), "Dow, dow, dow" (up or down), "Mou" (Micky mouse), "Eee-oo" (Eeyore), "Poo" (any Winnie the Pooh character other than Eeyore), "Nk nk nk" (a clicking noise that means her pacifier), and of course "Ee" (eat), "Jue" (juice), "Nyum-ny" (yummy), "Mmmm!" (yummy), and "EH, EH, EH!" (I want more of that – it was yummy).

Gracie has the world’s greatest smile, and we delight in her ‘fire.’ She is very independent and very, very passionate. If she loves you, she'll let you know it. If you're not her favorite person at the moment, she'll let you know it. If she's decided that she no longer likes hot dogs even though they were her absolute favorite last week and would rather pass the dinner hour by only eating giant scoops of butter off her dinner plate using her precious little greasy pointer finger, well, she'll let you know it.

And, Gracie's favorite past-time in the car is shouting "MAAAAAAAAAHHHHH-me." over and over and over. Not because she wants Mommy's attention. She just simply likes to see if she can finally get her to turn around. Again. And again.

And how’s ol’ Papa Zenz been doing this year? It’s been a mighty full year, for sure. In many ways a difficult one too – obviously on a national level. And we’ve had a handful of trying personal circumstances as well; I’ve found myself frustrated, losing sleep, confused. Of course there have been many joys too. But some things tip the scales for me as I reflect on my most recent 365 days…

It's been a joy to watch Amity consistently and faithfully dig through the Old Testament this year as she continues her effort to read through the whole Bible. Its been good to hear Gracie echo a hearty "Mae-min" at the end of dinnertime prayers. And there's no feeling like hearing Isaac, out of the blue, offering comments like, "Daddy, Jesus is God!" and "Jesus died on the cross for us so He can take us to heaven!" I thank God for these blessings...

At Thanksgiving this year, I knew exactly what I was most thankful for. I’ve been so happy to be able to say that I love the Lord more now than I did a year ago. I often check myself, with honesty, especially around the close of the year. This is the first year in a while that I’ve been able to say I love Him more; moved closer, not further. And I’m thrilled!

I know that "love comes from God" – even love for Him comes from Him – so I can’t take much credit. But I am so very thankful. He is Good, and He deserves all the love He can get.

A very merry Christmas to you. We hope you can find a way to get your arms around the Savior and hold Him to your chest with tight little fists…

May the joy of Christ’s birth last you far beyond December 25!

Aaron, Amity, Isaac, Grace, & Taga Tooter