Joy to the world, the Lord has come!  Let the earth receive her King.  Let every heart prepare Him room!

Okay, I plagiarized that -- but I agree wholeheartedly!  Aaron here on behalf of the Zenz Family.  It's been a full, full year.  Full of adventure.  Full of growing.  Full both of heartache and joy.  We thank the Lord for this last year's journey and want to give you some snapshots.

Isaac (6 yrs) has developed many interests over the year.  He is now fascinated by the study and smashing of rocks.  He's got baggies and baggies of gray rock after gray rock after gray rock up in his room.  Isaac is always on the lookout for arrowheads, and just yesterday he was boring a hole in the middle of our lawn searching for diamonds.

Isaac has developed a keen interest in swords, daggers, axes, bows and arrows, shields, armor, and the like.  He pretty much freaks us out.  We'll be sitting in church and look over to find him drawing a hideous sword adorned with gaping skulls.  I always imagine the sound of elderly women dropping in the pews around us as we hurry to flip his paper over.

He is also interested in playing soccer now.  Actually, he's really interested in running two feet behind his buddy Sam while Sam plays soccer so Sam "doesn't get lonely."

Gracie (4 yrs) still talks about wanting to be a "Woman of God" when she grows up.  I once asked if she knew any women of God, and she identified Mommy.  When I asked her how she could tell, Gracie replied with awe, "Because she prays when she's not even eating!"

Some time later I thought Gracie might be getting old enough to reap some benefit from the meaning behind her name.  I started by telling her that we named her Grace because we wanted to help her remember her whole life long how gracious God is.  To illustrate, I began singing the song: "Grace, grace, God's grace / Grace that can pardon and cleanse within / Grace, grace, God's grace / Grace that is greater than all our sin."  After a pause she said smiling, "Daddy, I'm God's Grace."  I thought, wow -- she's getting this!  I replied, "Yes, if you belong to Him - then you would be 'His' Grace."  A few more moments passed and she said, "Daddy," her eyes growing wider as the implications dawned on her.  "I'm greater than all our sin!!" 

I hope I haven't done too much damage.  We'll get our theology straightened out.

Lily (22 mos) has finally started growing hair.  Kind of.  She's got this scarecrow, comb-over, mullet thing.  She also grew a neck sometime in the last year.  She's shaping up.

She loves books (bookies).  She loves to color (bullor).  She can count her toes (too, pee, poe, pie).  She can snap.  She often drops things (Aw, nut.)  She raids Gracie's Strawberry Shortcakes (Cakies).  She is the doorkeeper, bookkeeper, and shoekeeper.  And when she's done with a meal, she goes around the table and finishes off everyone else's plates one by one.

Amity is a wonder.  She spends her days home schooling Isaac, raking snarls out of Gracie's hair, waiting for Lily to grow hair, looking for Lily's stripped clothing, redressing Lily again and again, lamenting the fact that there are no further Lord of the Rings installments, and shuttling around to soccer, ballet, pediatricians, and mothers-with-preschoolers support groups.

Amity was the driving force behind this year's great cross-country trek to Maine.  19 hours there.  19 hours back.  We saw no moose, much to everyone's dismay.  But Amity thinks she saw a camel as we whizzed along the highway.  Isaac will always remember his first taste of saltwater.  Gracie, it turns out, is a rock-climbing machine.  And Lily discovered and produced many noteworthy smells.  I got tons of pictures of the kids -- but they all pretty much look the same: the kids sitting on rocks in the water, the kids sitting on rocks in the woods, the kids sitting on rocks on the sides of cliffs.  I guess Maine has a lot of rocks.  Much to Isaac's delight.  In Maine everyone assumed a nickname.  I'll let you try to guess to whom they belong.  We were: One Match, Arrowhead, Goat Girl, Yucky, and Camel.

I am immensely enjoying my work with Dogs in Hats Children's Publishing.  It's still like a wonderful dream and you can all try to pinch me.  There have even been neat opportunities to travel -- once to New York and once to Chicago.  The Toy Fair trade show had toy displays covering 11 miles of aisles.  The Book Expo trade show consisted of huge rooms with acres and acres of books.

At the last show I even had a chance to meet one of my all-time illustrator-heroes Scott Gustafson.  He stopped by our booth to visit his pal John Sandford, one of the Dogs in Hats principals.  John knows I'm a fan and called me over to the little group huddled in conversation.  My mind spun as I nervously waited to talk to him -- talk to him!  What would I say?  Finally a pause came and John introduced me.  I said something like this:

"I've been a big fan of your work for a long, long time.  In fact, as long as I can remember, whenever someone asks me who my favorite artists are, I've said the same three names:  Glen Keane, Peter deSeve, and Scott Guftesss... Scott Gussfusst... Scott Guff... Gusf... Gufftenstuh... Gus Stuffsensen... Scuff Gustiffstin... Scat... Sket... Scott Gutfuss..."  At which point he graciously broke in and said, "That's okay -- I think I know the guy you're talking about."  At which point I promptly clammed up, donned a contented goofy grin, and uttered nary another word for the rest of his visit.

In exciting news, I've been putting the final touches on my first authored/illustrated picture book: "The Hiccupotamus."  It's been a blast working on it and a real growing experience artistically.  Each step closer to completion is more and more thrilling. I should be done with my tasks by the end of the year, then it's a print run in the spring and a release date in the fall.  Woo hoo!

Well, that brings both our letter and our year to a close.  Please have snow and mistletoe, and God rest ye merry gentlemen.

Plagiarizing freely,

     Aaron, Amity, Isaac, Grace, and Lily