Helena and James

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Dear Family and Friends,

2016 saw some unexpected victories in the United States. The Cubs won, Donald Trump won, and our family won. Those victories do not make everyone happy. If you’re a Milwaukee Brewers fan who is also an illegal alien with children attending Milwaukee German Immersion School, it was probably a bad year. To most people, these were three minor events in the bigger picture of life, unless the Cubs win two or three in a row or Trump uses his tax lawyers to circumvent the separation of powers. Sure, you could look at the events of 2016 as signs of the Apocalypse, but I’d rather just see it as a new opportunity make America wait again.

We’ve had Cubs as champions before, but they can now wait once again, as it makes Cubs fans more tolerable. We’ve had philanderers, fools, and fake philanthropists as President before, too, but we can probably wait before we elect another one with all those traits. Yes, our family won, as well, but we can certainly wait some time before we move all of our belongings and have to establish ourselves again, even if we have been successful in that endeavor.

Moving from Milwaukee to Lenexa, Kansas (KC area), was our biggest challenge of the year. We could not have done it without the help of volunteers from Hope Lutheran in Shawnee or our family and friends from Wisconsin, and I’m singling out my dad, Uncle Skip, Uncle Joe, Cousin Jason, and Dollar Bill, who helped to load two 26’ trucks. We even had another semi come to take the big stuff. This all translates to trying to find a place for around 4,000 cubic feet of stuff in the new house. That’s enough stuff to fill the entire surface area of the house we have nearly two feet high, so you can imagine it took some imagination to fit it all. (And that’s after throwing away probably another 1,000 cubic feet of stuff we decided against taking. In essence, it was a good time to think about what we needed, take photos of old trophies and beer bottle collections, and move on with life.)

Kids are excellent at moving on. Helena had a lot of friends at MGIS, and she misses them, but she has done a great job adjusting to the new environment. The trip we made out to Oregon made Helena fall in love with the West, just as Lisa had done as a child, and she wants to return to Montana (we visited Aunt Eva), explore Utah’s national parks, and see Colorado. While here, Helena has decided she wants to participate in nearly every activity she can, so she joined volleyball for the last few games, participates in 4-H, ran for Student Council and now serves as the Artist/Publicity person, and plays basketball. She’s on the 5-6 grade team, as they are short on players. As a 4th grader in the 10th percentile for height, she will definitely have to work hard to win. However, she wants to work hard, as is evidenced by her desire to do well in math, working her way up to an enrichment group in class. She takes pride in nearly perfect scores in memory, which means she knows the Ten Commandments and explanations, as well as the Apostle’s Creed. She’s even gotten back into music, taking flute lessons at school.

James has also adapted to his new surroundings, even if he isn’t always sure where he is. For example, the other day we visited Lisa’s co-worker Daniel and his wife to watch a football game and see their new baby. After we were there for about an hour (alternating between the Nebraska and Wisconsin games on TV), James asked when we were going to go to the game. And when we talk about going somewhere and then get in the car to go there, he’ll often ask where we’re going, all while wearing pants on a 90 degree day or forgetting a jacket on a 30 degree day. Honestly, it’s an innocent and enviable position to be in, since it’s up to Lisa and me to figure out the logistics of getting him to Cub Scouts or 4-H. James has not shown interest in sports so much, but he has been interested once again in playing the piano (he and Helena recently composed and performed their own Halloween song, even writing the music on the staff!) and has been making plans for writing another book. One parent noted that talking to James is like talking to a little adult, probably a result of his enjoyment in using his new vocabulary words in sentences.

Hope Lutheran School and its teachers are wonderful (this includes Lisa), and both kids are benefiting from the religious elements. Our attempts to get them to practice German have fallen a bit flat because they are well beyond the curriculum offerings at the German School of Northeast Kansas (for which we have been going to Lawrence each Saturday this semester, about 40 minutes away) and a little young to participate in German meetups at local bars. While they can practice online using Duolingo, they prefer to watch mind-numbing Youtube videos or tween Disney programs in their free time.

Lisa has not had a lot of free time herself since arriving in Kansas. She has had to create lessons from the ground up for English Language Arts and social studies for grades 5/6, 7, and 8, with the ELA including separate books for vocabulary, literature, and grammar. She also teaches an elective, Living Well (physical, emotional, and spiritual health). The school has also taken on many new initiatives meant to benefit the students, so she has been involved in many before and after-school meetings and activities. Any teacher knows that the first year is difficult, and Lisa and I have both been there before, so I am trying to help her through the time commitment. As ever, Lisa has been a professional and hard-working model employee. She received calls to both Hope Lutheran in Shawnee AND Zion Lutheran in Corvallis, Oregon. In the same week! It was a tough decision to make between them or to try to stay in Wisconsin, but we could not wait any longer to make some kind of decision. So we prayerfully accepted the call to Kansas and headed on down.

I have continued to work on growing my multi-faceted business. I rented out our Milwaukee house for less than what it’s worth, I build websites for a tenth of what others charge, and I sell my lessons online for a lot less than what Lisa has to pay textbook companies for similar materials. I am the online sales representative for the Cranium Chromebook Protector, setting up the Amazon ads and online marketing. I do the archiving for Lutheran Radio Church Service, too. I have also made myself available for tutoring, and I sell a few books each month. While I can handle all the different directions my business has taken me, it sometimes feels like I need to find the one that works the best, and I am hoping that a change in location will help establish some new connections for me. I even wrote a message to Donald Trump on how I would work to make America great again. Perhaps it will be as a curriculum writer or some other job done for someone else, or maybe 2017 will be the year that my diversified business strategy really pays off. While I’ve more than doubled my income from last year, it still feels like I’ve been waiting as long as Cubs fans. If all else fails, there should be quite a few migrant farming jobs open very soon.

In this year of firsts, we hope you and your family have been able to experience something new and exciting, even if you’re not a fan of baseball or politics. If nothing else, get up off the couch and go for a walk in your neighborhood, just in case you’re in a new one next year. Give a Cubs fan a high-five and retweet something nice about Hillary or Donald. Or arrange a visit to Lenexa, Kansas -- we have room, despite all the stuff. Don’t wait.

Love,

Brian, Lisa, Helena, and James

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