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Merry Christmas to You and Yours from Bob and Barbara Howard

Merry Christmas to You and Yours from Bob and Barbara Howard (2008)

   Barbara wants to try a new format this Christmas season.  Instead of a single portrait of the gathered family in the living room at 75 Fox Chase Lane, the previous years' format, this time we're going to send you three photos, one each of the families identified by the Howard daughter about whom the family circles revolve... more or less.  Beginning with Kathryn ("Kate," preferred name by husband Steve; "Kathy," as her mom and dad and sisters have always called her).

Nestled in Kathy's arm is the newest addition to the Curtis household, Willi, a mix of terrier and Chihuahua, a most friendly, agreeable. and pet-able canine cousin to Teddy and Tappy. This Thanksgiving twenty-two human beings, six dogs, and one cat enjoyed the feasting day at 27 Gin Still Lane and 75 Fox Chase Lane.  Three year old Sohani ("beautiful child of God" in Urdu) likes nothing better than phoning her grandmother in West Hartford, discussing the day's events, and unfailingly signing off, "I love you, grandma."  Mom Kathryn supervises a busy household, teaches and learns yoga at every opportunity (which are too few), and occasionally provides her own expertise in massage therapy to the lucky soul who catches her with a moment to spare. Alanna, eight years old this month, recently played a mouse in a production of "The Nutcracker" ballet at the Hanover in Worcester MA, in which her Dad also played the part of a dinner guest.  Steve continues to teach instrumental music in an elementary school in Southborough MA where his special pride is the jazz band, for which he composes and arranges music, some of which can be found (and purchased) on Sibelius's website.

Here's daughter Gwen surrounded by the men in her life.  Craig is a Connecticut College (New London CT) "blue camel" freshman, just an hour or so away from our W. Hartford home.  Craig is a talented (so say his cousins) guitar player with, Craig tells us, plenty of time at college to pursue interests non-academic.  Dad Brian continues to lead a private equity firm in Baltimore with holdings in educational materials, tape, digital cameras, and windows (how's that for diversity!?).  His non-business fascination is Ireland where he owns two vacation houses on an island in Lake Caragh within the Ring of Kerry, a special place he and Gwen and their boys shared with the Howard-Carnes Family this past August.  Ben, a seventh grader and a voluble radio announcer on the school station at St. Paul's in Baltimore, has switched allegiance from the Packers to the Jets because of #4. Gwen, whom I love to call "Professor Mahoney," manages the Cockeysville household while working as an adjunct instructor at Towson University, specializing in the field of child development.  The pay is poor but the personal satisfaction is very good.  Teddy, the senior pooch in our clan, finally found a cure for his ailing teeth and now his breath smells like a spring breeze.  Jack, the former wrestler now a swimmer, is in his junior year at St. Paul's.  His social intelligence and sense of humor make him a very popular guy.  Not pictured: Jessica, twenty year old junior at Williams College, currently in Kenya exploring exotic places like Zanzibar and interviewing government officials meeting with Chinese businessmen.  It greatly helps that she has mastered Mandarin.  She will be home by the time you receive this letter.  Check back later for a photo of her.

At home on Thanksgiving Day posing in front of the fireplace from whose mantle the stockings will soon be hung with care, the Howard-Carnes division of the family.  Henry Carnes IV is a junior at Hall High School, studying hard every day under Mom's watchful eye as the clock ticks down toward college entrance.  But Henry is equally intent on being a driver without restrictions on passengers.  He also is campaigning for his own Blackberry.  Pa, as the twins call him, chauffeurs Henry and Robert hither and yon, while in his spare time maintains the website, now in its sixth year.  Tappy is expected to speak her first words any supper soon.  Food is a mighty motivator.  She has mastered moaning and kiss-licking, dancing and a vocabulary of scores of words; but the words she likes best are "ice" and  "cream."  Betsy watches over her boys and gives them constant attention four to ten every day.  She works as a permanent teachers' assistant at a local elementary school, does house drawings and illustrations (see Betsy's Gallery on this website), and provides leadership in the youth program at her church.  Barbara oversees the household, plans the meals, does the shopping, walks often and exercises (with Pa) at the local pool thrice weekly, and (again with Pa) attends concerts on an average of 1 1/2 times per week.  Lots of music in these h'yar hills.

The Howard-Carnes' home address is, just in case you forgot, 75 Fox Chase Ln, West Hartford CT 06117.

Life is good, health too (mostly).  We think of you in this season.  You are among God's most cherished gifts to us.

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