Christmas Letter Fun

Up until a couple of years ago, we faithfully sent out a Christmas card and update letter every year of our married life. It was a great way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family and to let even local friends know we were thinking of them. And, since Jeff is a graphic artist, he designed every card, which we dubbed the "annual HollMark."

Unfortunately, we let ourselves get too busy in the last few years, and the card felt like a burden - so we skipped it. But we missed doing it...and were told by many of our regular recipients that they missed it, too. So we got back to it this year.

We also added a twist by designing the update as a quiz...and directing readers to come here if they wanted to know more details about each quiz question. So, if you're here from our Christmas card list, welcome!

And without further ado, here are the details you've come to see:

  • (1) JEFF, of course, is the one who traveled to Kansas City MO; Salt Lake City UT; Terre Haute IN; Chicago IL; London, England; Kandy, Sri Lanka; Port of Spain, Trinidad; and MalĂ© in the Maldives – all in a day’s work.

His domestic destinations involved press checks for his graphics job; the international trips were, of course, sponsored by MissionGuides. As usual, he led trips to Trinidad and Sri Lanka, and the stops in London and the Maldives occurred on his way to and from the latter. Trips for 2012 are still up in the air, but he may go again to Trinidad, as well as to Malawi, Africa.

  • (2) TINA, RACHEL, and ABIGAIL studied world geography until June and then ancient history from August through the end of the year.
We actually studied world geography beginning in August, 2009, and learned a lot - some of which you can see by visiting our portfolio blog for the term. And then this August, we started what will be a four-and-a-half year "walk through history" with a new curriculum we really enjoy. Of course, we continue with our other areas of study, too - in particular, both girls love to read! - making our learning days full but still an overall joy we wouldn't trade for anything.

  • (3) ABIGAIL suffered a concussion that took seven months to heal.
At the beginning of March, the girls and Jeff were wrestling - as they've done since the girls were toddlers - when Abigail lost her footing and banged her head (hard!) on our living room floor (one of the few times I've regretted having such a solidly-built house!). She didn't lose consciousness, but had a doozy of a headache (eight on a 10-point scale for a long time!) that got better with chiropractic care but didn't cease entirely until November. We did have to limit some of her activities - both physical and cognitive - for a while, but we're grateful that she's had no long-lasting side effects.

  • (4) RACHEL celebrated her double-digit birthday.

We can't believe we have a 10-year old in the house! But there's no denying it's true. And, in fact, this coming spring we will say good-bye to the single-digits entirely when Abigail turns 10 as well.

  • (5) JEFF began administrating the work of a full-time missionary couple.
A now-retired public school teacher and his wife, both of whom had traveled with Jeff to Trinidad many times, felt led a few years ago to pursue full-time work in Trinidad. And everything finally came together this summer, enabling them to head on down to start working with the church and school that MissionGuides has helped for years. To now be an official "sending agency" is quite an accomplishment.

  • (6) JEFF, TINA, RACHEL, and ABIGAIL enjoyed a great vacation week at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp.

Even after several years, this vacation never gets old. The girls passed their swim tests, which enabled them to try the kayaks and "fun bugs." Tina cherished a week to stay "unplugged" from technology and pulled out an old cross-stitch project and some good books. Jeff once again served as camp missionary, and God again blessed his time teaching the campers. And we re-connected with friends who serve the Lord full-time at camp - a great week all around!

  • (7) RACHEL got braces in July...and added headgear in September.
So far, it's been going exceedingly well; we are so proud of how Rachel has taken responsibility for brushing carefully around her brackets and caring for her headgear, as well as her attitude about the whole thing. And the dentist has been blown away by how quickly her teeth are moving into proper alignment.

  • (8) GRANDPA and CLAWDE celebrated [their] 76th birthdays.
Okay, this was, admitttedly, a trick question! You probably didn't imagine we were counting grandparents and cats, but it is a true statement. Jeff's dad celebrated a birthday in May, and then our oldest cat, Clawde, turned 15 - which is officially listed as "76" on the chart at the vet's office.

  • (9) JEFF, TINA, RACHEL, and ABIGAIL enjoyed the 50th wedding anniversary celebration of a special set of parents/grandparents.
In August, we got to honor Jeff's parents with a weekend anniversary celebration, an occasion made very special because all the children and grandchildren attended and joined in for a family picture, too.

  • (10) JEFF hosted the 9th annual MissionGuides Golf Outing in September.
He was humbled at the support of so many and the financial blessings God once again provided for the ministry. Not only has that covered the ministry's operating expenses for the next year, but it's also funded an expansion of the King's Kids school in Trinidad and provided Christmas gifts for all the teachers. In 2012, these funds will help pay for an emergency neighborhood shelter in Sri Lanka, and provide support for several short-term and campus missionaries in the U.S. and abroad.

  • (11) RACHEL and ABIGAIL participated in several extracurriculars: swim lessons, ice skating, dance class, Vacation Bible Camp, choir, and piano lessons.
They passed through every level of swim lessons at the Y by last winter and tried the swim team for a while in the spring. Abigail participated in dance at the Y all year and enjoyed the recital last April - which motivated Rachel to join her in class this fall. They'll be singing music from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at their choir concert this spring, and will start with a new piano teacher in January so they'll have a spring piano recital, too. Oh...and they also went with Jeff to a Father-Daughter Valentine Dance and a Father-Child Campout, among other things. So much for the "lack of socialization" myth among home-educated kids!

  • (12) RACHEL and ABIGAIL got new kittens, who were promptly named Prince and Sapphire.
We had no intention of adding to our feline population...until we saw this picture of an adorable pair of kittens on a friend's Facebook page. Yes, it's a bit nuts to have five cats - and the kittens messed with our Thanksgiving plans and have messed up our Christmas tree every night since it's been up (!) - but they've quickly become part of the family, and we're glad they're here.

  • (13) CLAWDE, SWEATER, and SPARKLE adjusted to the kittens in a matter of days.
In all honesty, Clawde (the tan cat) - who is slow to warm up to people but has always gotten along with every cat we've ever had - and Sweater (the black one) really did adapt quickly. In fact, both were sleeping and even playing with the kittens in very short order. In contrast, Sparkle (the big tabby) hissed daily for a couple of weeks and still doesn't make a point of hanging out with the kittens, but we never did have cat fights, which is pretty amazing.

  • (14) JEFF visited the Art Institute of Chicago and other Windy City sites.
We'd all intended to go to Jeff's sister's for Thanksgiving, but the kittens' need for "emergency" spay/neuter appointments meant that the girls and I stayed home while they convalesced, and Jeff went down alone for the weekend. He, his sister, one brother, and their kids had a blast visiting the art institute, and then the next day he and his sister took in many other places he'd wanted to see for a long time.

  • (15) TINA continues to serve on worship team, as both a vocalist and “video tech.”
I sing about once a month - generally alto and tenor, though I also had a couple of opportunities to "stretch" and sing lead this year - and even had the chance at Easter to pull out my French horn (after a long hiatus). And our worship pastor at the time got me involved with video for weekend services in Fall, 2010, so I've done that regularly, too.

  • (16) ABIGAIL loves crafting of all sorts, especially origami.

Abigail has always liked many kinds of crafts, and can produce amazing creations with a needle and thread or even just a cardboard box, a bit of construction paper, and tape! And she really took to origami after we studied Japan last spring. In fact, she taught herself to make every project in our how-to book.

  • (17) TINA, RACHEL, and ABIGAIL count it a joy to babysit for five-year old Anna and her sister, nine-month old Leah.
We've had Anna here since she was just two months old and are trying to make the most of our last year with her before she heads off to kindergarten. Leah was born last February and started coming here in the spring. She's amazingly good-natured (unless I have to wipe her nose!) and has fit right in with our home learning routine. After sending two other long-term charges, Tegen and N., off to kindergarten after last spring, we also got to spend significant time in August with former client and good friend, Hallie. And we will welcome a new baby girl - a friend for Leah once her sister has to leave us for public school - in April, 2012.

  • (18) RACHEL is a budding artist and pianist.
Just as we've seen that Abigail loves to craft, Rachel has really taken to drawing, and we often find her with sketchpad in hand. We're amazed at the accuracy of her renderings and the interesting style she's developing. In addition, she does well with piano, so we'll see where that goes over time.

  • (19) ABIGAIL tries to be patient while waiting to be old enough for voice lessons.
Abigail takes piano, too, but it's not quite as much fun for her as it is for Rachel. Instead, it appears that piano may be a "tool" for her - a skill she works at to help with her eventual dream of taking lessons to train what appears to be a gifted singing voice. But we've been told to wait a few more years for that so as not to strain her vocal chords. And, in the meantime, both girls are thoroughly enjoying choir.

  • (20) TINA loves Facebook and blogging.

Some people think I'm online "all the time," but that's not really true; I just don't often log out of Facebook so it looks like I'm there even when I'm nowhere near my computer. But I will admit to enjoying my online interactions and the opportunities for regular writing that this blog affords. I've most treasured how it's enabled me to be an encouragement to other home educating moms, an endeavor I hope continues (and grows) for a long time.

Now...those who took our Christmas letter quiz before venturing to this post might remember that we promised two giveaways! And, indeed, we meant it - so MissionGuides is giving away this hat and t-shirt combo, and I will give away a copy of Dr. Kathy Koch's How Am I Smart?, a parenting book I firmly believe should be in every family's home library.

To enter both, simply leave a comment by December 31, including the initial score you earned on our quiz. On January 1, we'll randomly choose two winners and contact them about claiming their prizes.

If you "friended" Jeff and/or me on Facebook to earn bonus points, we look forward to interacting with you there. If you bookmarked Jeff's website, we hope you visit often and gain encouragement about God's work around the world. If you've subscribed to or signed on to follow this blog, I hope you're blessed by what you read. And, if you plan to be "old-fashioned" and give us a call (or drop me an email), we look forward to hearing from you!

Most of all, we hope you thoroughly enjoy your celebration this coming week of Christ's entrance into our world, and start off 2012 with confidence in His love and care for you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


tjbalak said...

Can't believe no one has commented yet. I didn't "score" the quiz so can't say what it was. Thoroughly enjoyed the quiz and reading the more detailed explanation. You always have GREAT ideas!


Stacie said...

Merry Christmas, Tina!

julie said...

I had a super high score of 8 before any bonus points. Pick me pick me.

Sounds like a fantastic year by the Hollenbeck family.

That's quite a bunch of cats you have. I thought we were brave to have 3 cats.

Merry Christmas!

Julie Kirpitis

Roger and Janine said...

I scored 13 on the quiz and 3 bonus points. I really enjoyed reading all about your year! You inspire so many people. God bless you.

Julie Schroeder said...

I scored 36. I feel like I have an unfair advantage with being part of your Core 4. ;-) This shows I listen anyway. hehe (Although, some of the answers sounded familiar but I couldn't remember, so I just had to make an "educated" guess!) Merry Christmas Hollenbeck Family, and a very Happy New Year!

Heidi said...

It makes me feel good to know someone else got the same score as I did - 8. It is amazing the different things your family does, and it is evident why you do the things you do. For Him. Merry Christmas Hollenbecks!

Julian Booth said...

Awesome blog & Extremely well written. I am really impressed with your writing skills. i think you are such genuine & professional author. Would love too see few more blog from your side.

thanks a lot for sharing
Christmas Gifts For Him

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