I only have received about ten Christmas cards this year. I know it's only December 14, but opening Christmas photo cards and reading Christmas letters is my favorite. I love seeing photos of how kids have grown, reading about a family's adventures through the year, and connecting with friends from long ago. I'm not on Facebook, so Christmas cards are sometimes the only way I stay connected to old friends. We have sent out our photo cards but I was wishing that I would have included a letter and then I remembered that I have a blog! So what follows is our Christmas letter, electronically :)
Dear Friends and Family Near and Far,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 2017 has been a busy, full year at the Martin House with no notable big events, just lots of flurry of daily activities. With six boys and one sporty girl, you can bet on any given day of the week that somebody is playing a sport somewhere! But let's break it down individually...
John-Paul is 14 and a freshman in high school! He seems to be adjusting well to the transition, it probably helps that his high school is where both of his parents work so he has been here a time or two! When Phil was hired to start teaching here, John-Paul was about 6 months old, so many of the faculty remember him from his infancy. JP joined the soccer team in the fall, and is currently running indoor track this winter. In the Spring, he plans on running track again. He is still figuring out his events, and thinks the 1000m might be his strong spot. JP is about 5'9" and wears a size 10 shoe, so I have no idea where my pre-term bambino went. This past summer JP went on a Pro-Life Bootcamp retreat, a Quo Vadis retreat (for young men to discern their vocations) and white water rafting with a group of guys. He is taking part in a STEM class with an engineering company weekly in the hopes of getting a college scholarship/internship. He is in all honors classes at school, serving Mass every weekend as a Master of Ceremonies now, and has held several seasonal jobs this year - working at the ice cream shop in the summer, refereeing soccer in the fall, and now running the scoreboard for basketball games at the CYO center. We've told him if he wants a car at age 16, he needs to start saving up, so he's trying his best! He is hoping for guitar lessons for Christmas.
Andrew is 13 and in 7th grade. Andrew was delighted to become a teenager and receive a phone for his birthday. On his latest report card he earned all A's and never needs to be reminded to do his homework or start a project. Andrew serves Mass often as they take boys out of school each day to serve (Catholic school perks!). He is desperately awaiting his growth spurt as he plays basketball with other 7th and 8th graders and height has become an important tool to have. He's still Speedy Gonzales on the court and running 5k races (and usually winning his division). We don't know where he gets that from! Andrew is such a great big brother to the younger boys, always looking out for them. I can look through 100 family photos, and see that Andrew is the one holding the baby or keeping a toddler safe or has his arm around one of them in about 95 of the photos. So sweet. Andrew played soccer in the fall in the U15 division again, and plays basketball for his school's CYO team. He will also run track for his school in the spring. Andrew asked if he could work at the CYO Center too, and we thought why not? So he is slowly starting to earn his keep as well. Something tells me that he will be able to afford a car first! He is hoping for nothing in particular for Christmas.
Eamon is 11 and in 5th grade. This is his last year of elementary school, as next year starts middle school for my third boy. Eamon is an all star athlete as well, constantly playing with Andrew and able to keep up despite his tiny stature. He was a top scorer on his U12 soccer team, and leads his basketball team as the point guard with the awesome moves and crazy shots. He will run track in the Spring though running for no reason is not his favorite ;) He eats a bagel with cream cheese every night before bed in hopes of getting bigger, but moves around too much during the day to offset the calories. Boy problems. He does so well in school, although is slightly a perfectionist which can make him take a little longer to write a paper or finish a project. Eamon serves Mass with great devotion and still thinks he has a calling to priesthood. Eamon is our most eager-to-please child, always answering with a "Yes, Mom" or "Yes, Dad" when we ask him to do something. Obedience is a virtue and he's got it in tenfold. He needs a haircut, and unlike the older boys, is still happy to have Mom just buzz it. No fancy hairdos for him! He is hoping for a nerf indoor basketball for Christmas.
Maggie is 10 and in 4th grade. She is my feisty, holy, sporty, opinionated, passionate girl. Read between those lines all you want! She is a sweetheart who plays all the sports. Soccer, basketball, track, and swimming are her loves. And you know what? She's good at all of them! Well, not track...for track races she just prays she can finish and not die. She has literally cried during a mile race before. I don't know why she keeps signing up for track when she hates running so much! Maggie loves playing with her girl cousins and girl friends and isn't giving up hope that one day she will have a baby sister of her own. Maggie is currently growing out her hair so she can pull it back into ponytails for basketball but claims in the spring she is cutting it all off. Luckily, the girl is so cute that any haircut looks good on her. Maggie shares a room with Brendan, so every morning she brings him downstairs and gets his milk for him, it's such a help! She has been devouring the Harry Potter books and Michael Vey series now that she's ten and allowed to read them. At school, she meets with her book club once a week and they are discussing The Borrowers which she loves. She is hoping for an iPod for Christmas.
Alexander is 6 and in 1st grade. As one of the teachers from the school told me, "He's just different from your other kids!" Ha! He's seriously funny and smart and the older he gets, the more he puts those things to good use instead of evil. Xander told me that he used to be a troublemaker at school but he retired from that job, and now he's a good kid. Every morning and night, Alexander feeds the dog and he's graduated to being able to "make lunches" (pack snacks) for everyone at night too. His Saturday chore is vacuuming the stairs and he does a great job with his little Hoover. If you need a meticulous job done on something, Xander's your man. I love assigning him to wipe down the island doors as I know it will look new after he's done. Watching tv and playing video games is his favorite, although he does like swimming lessons and will be starting basketball soon. He also "retired" from soccer. He loves to learn and will tell you in detail everything that happened at school that day, which is so unlike the other boys in the house who say it was fine/good/boring. We watched the movie, Elf, the other night as a family, and Alexander was in heaven. His favorite pastime is visiting Gammy and Grandpa who moved in downstairs this summer. We are all enjoying having them so close! Alexander is hoping for a drum and a trumpet for Christmas!?!?
Declan is 3 and in preschool. Declan is my sweet as can be little cherub whom I probably baby too much (at least that's what Phil tells me!) He is loving school and comes home so excited to show us his craft of the day. He always tells me he likes everything. "It's snowing! I like snow!"..."We watched the elf movie and I liked Buddy!"..."Santa's coming and I like him!" The boy's normal state is just joyful and smiling is his favorite. He has recently started talking with a very dramatic lisp (as in he sticks his tongue way out past his teeth) and I'm trying to remind him to keep his tongue in his cage (behind his teeth) when he talks. I'm not sure if this lisp will stick or it's just a phase. We shall shee (wink!). We discovered this year, through many tests, that Declan is allergic to dust and cats and most likely has asthma. He gets wheezy when he runs around too much, but they can't test him properly until he is 5 or 6 and has the lung capacity to do the breathing test. For now, we re-homed our cat to family friends with 6 kids and he takes Singulair every night. Christmas will be fun with Declan around as he gets so very excited about everything and any little toy will thrill him.
Brendan is 16 months old and goes to a home daycare (well, he is usually the only one there, it's more like a private daycare!) of a friend's mother and father who have retired. They speak to him in Portuguese and love on him as if he is their own grandchild, it's so sweet. Brendan has quickly learned some Portuguese commands and how to get candy from them whenever he wants! Poor little guy has been struggling for a few months with ear infections and right after the New Year we are taking him to the ENT to talk about tubes. They usually want to wait for 5 ear infections before they place tubes, but with our family history (4 kids have needed them) and his recurrent ear infection and constant fluid in his ears, we hope they just do it. Phil is particularly hopeful that ear tubes will turn our slightly fussy baby into a happy boy. Brendan is a snuggle bug who loves giving hugs and blowing kisses to Jesus. I would give him nothing for Christmas as he gets whatever he wants, but the older kids would revolt so a couple new toys will do.
Phil and I have been spending our free time (ha!) going on long runs, walking the dog (oh! we got an awesome goldendoodle named Lucy for Christmas last year!) cooking and baking and eating lots of food, sneaking away for dates now that we have two teenagers in the house, and trying to keep all the kids alive, fed, loved, and provided for. Google Calendar is our best friend! We know how lucky we are to have seven beautiful, healthy, happy children and don't take that for granted. Even when life seems so chaotically busy, kids are less than well-behaved, and the house could use a good scrub down, we are grateful for this life. It was all we ever wanted when we met almost 18 years ago, and God has taken care of us since. We hope you all may find time to appreciate your families and friends and know that we pray for you all at this time and always. May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and may nothing but happiness come through your door. Happy 2018!