Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Letter 2016

16 December

Merry Christmas from our sleep-deprived home to yours! 2016 was a year of some notable events: we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, became a family of four, and that guy I used to watch on the Apprentice became the President-Elect. Here are some other highlights from our past year.

-In March, Andrew and I traveled to Arizona where we spent some time hiking and riding 4-wheelers in Sedona before driving up to the Grand Canyon. At the Grand Canyon, which was both immensely impressive and the largest tourist spectacle I’ve ever seen, we hiked the South Kaibab trail and biked the South Rim. On our fourth day of the trip, I had some inkling I might be pregnant when, looking for food options in one of the lodges, the only thing I wanted was a tuna melt. Craving mashed tuna and mayonnaise seemed out of the ordinary for me (and most people, I assume), and sure enough, just a few weeks later, it was confirmed that little Rebecca would be joining us in November.

-We continued chipping away at our long list of house projects. Sanding and painting our kitchen cabinets (all 22 of them) proved to be the worst renovation project we’ve undertaken. It was like being a part of one of those home renovation shows where everything that can go wrong does, but instead of the issues being resolved within the show’s one-hour timeframe, the caption underneath reads “one year later…” because that’s how long it took us to complete. But complete it we did. Thanks to Andrew, they look great and now I no longer have to pretend that I’m really into “open shelving” all year long. We also finished our floors, painted all the downstairs walls (again with the help of Elizabeth and Jonathan), and as of last week, finished the kitchen island. But Chip and Joanna Gaines we are not…

-Benjamin proves to be more fun each and every year. His current interests include construction work and playing his ukulele. He lives to “fix things” with Andrew and my dad, and dutifully wears his construction hat from his Halloween costume anytime he has to work. This habit has proved particularly useful considering both a DVD player and stocking holder have fallen on his head just this last month. His other construction interest involves building a Lego tower in his window, nearly every day, as high as possible. He also has shown himself to be quite talented at writing songs while playing his ukulele. So far his main hits have been called “Fire Alarm Song” (he is traumatized by it going off so many times this summer while I cooked pizza at 500 degrees…though I appreciate him turning his difficulties into art) and “Ceiling Song,” which I can only assume is a follow-up to “Fire Alarm Song.” Of course, his most anticipated hit is one we haven’t heard the words to, only the title: “Hearts in the Rain.” Sounds like he is working through some emotional times.

-At 32 weeks pregnant, we took a “babymoon” to New England to experience the fall foliage in late September. We walked the Freedom Trail in Boston (somehow this turned into a 10-mile journey), ate cannolis, and generally tried not to engage with angry Bostonian drivers. We later drove through the Massachusetts countryside and into New Hampshire where we rode a train to Mount Washington, the highest peak in NE, which, should be noted, is about half the size of our nearby Mount Hood. But New England gets to claim things like the birthplace of the American Revolution and the Patriots, so I sort of doubt they are sad about their diminutive mountain sizes. Plus the New Hampshire license plate tag says “Live Free or Die,” which seems far superior to Oregon’s single evergreen tree and no tagline.* So all in all, they still have our respect. To end our trip, we drove east to visit the mother Portland (Maine) where we met up with Rachel and Adam to enjoy lobster rolls and the Atlantic ocean. The lighthouse tour by boat in Casco Bay was a highlight for me, because sightseeing by boat is definitely the preferred way for a pregnant person to travel. (again, 10 miles of walking in Boston!)

-On November 25, just one day after her due date, Rebecca Evangeline joined our family. We arrived at the birth center around 6:45 a.m. and she was born just 3 hours later. We were grateful to God for her speedy arrival and for a much easier labor than Benjamin’s. As of today, she is officially three weeks old and shares a likeness to her brother: they both have a similar disposition, many of the same facial features, and a high-maintenance need to be walked around when crying—no sitting allowed! But there are differences. Rebecca’s hair and skin look like they will be a bit darker, and unlike her super-metabolism brother, she has the potential to be a fat baby—something I’ve always wanted. My brother aptly called her a “little pot roast” when she was born and so far it still fits. Benjamin has thus far been welcoming of her, mostly because his life seems to be minimally disrupted if not enhanced: Thanks to Intel, Andrew has a 7-week paternity leave so he has been able to spend a lot of time with him, taking walks to the creek and working on the cars. We shall see if Benjamin’s warm spirit remains once Andrew returns to work, or more telling, once his sister becomes mobile and interested in destroying his Lego towers or eating his ukulele.

Other notable happenings include:

-Rafting the Lower Rogue again with Elizabeth and Jonathan and my dad.

-Seeing nearly everyone from Andrew’s family this year.

-Andrew continuing his PhD work at Portland State (Benjamin and I are sometimes able to walk with him to and from the train).

-Building a raised bed in our backyard so we could have a summer garden—cherry tomatoes were a nightly staple.

-Chick-Fil-A opening in our town, complete with a playplace for Benjamin. If you know anything about Chick-Fil-A, this is worthy news.

-Andrew and I running a half-marathon and 10k. It’s not important who ran which race. It’s just important that some people think me actually capable of running 13 plus miles…

We are busy and we are tired in this new season, but our hearts are full. I told Andrew the other night that as overwhelming as this stage seems, I imagine we will look back and see this time as a period where our home was brimming with “life.” Maybe some of that life looks hard at the moment, like middle-of-the-night feedings or telling a toddler not to flick on and off the lights for the hundredth time (because as I say too often, “our house is not a rave”), but it is full nonetheless. We are grateful for all the ways the Lord has provided for us and blessed us this past year. We pray his peace and love over you this Christmas season: “Mild He lays His glory by / Born that man no more may die.”


The Browns

*I realize it’s a shame we don’t have a state motto for our license plates here in Oregon, so I’ve been considering some options: “Stay in California” is one. “Don’t Associate Me with Portland” is another.

**Update: my dad has since informed me that "Pacific Wonderland" was once the license plate motto of Oregon. I say it's still a good option and much more welcoming than my previous suggestions.

Rebecca Evangeline Brown
25 November 2016
9:50 a.m.
8 pounds 6 ounces 21 inches

We are blessed to announce the birth of our daughter this holiday season. We chose the name Rebecca Evangeline knowing that Rebecca means "to tie, to join, or to secure," and that Evangeline means "the gospel, good news." We pray that our daughter joins her life to the greatest cause of all--the good news that Jesus Christ has been born to reconcile the world to God. We wish you God's joy and peace this Christmas season.

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