Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

1999 Holiday Letter

December 6, 1999

To all near and far,

As we prepare for the holidays, we are also planning to celebrate Katie’s “Gotcha Day” anniversary with the other couples from Ohio who adopted from China on our trip. I have been tasked with coming up with phrases for the fortune cookies Chris will be making. This time last year, we were in China adopting Kaitlin. On the flight home from Shanghai, Katie was a little fussy from the air pressure and, as we were soon to find out, Katie at her tiny size, is subject to recurrent ear infections. We had a scare in February when she was admitted to the hospital for a short stay for bronchiolitis. Since she was frequently on bright pink liquid antibiotics during the first half of the year, we had tubes put in her ears in June. Everything cleared up, but last month, one of the tubes fell out and we think the infections may be coming back, but we’ll see. Otherwise she’s been a tiny bundle of energy. Her birth date is April 6, 1998, eleven weeks younger than Marissa, and with her infectious grin and dervish energy you can tell she was born in the Chinese year of the tiger. She taught her older sister how to crawl, and Marissa is returning the favor by teaching her little sister how to babble. Today they dart around the house chasing the cats and tugging at their fur. They are just mad about the Teletubbies (although Katie calls them all “La La”). They color with crayons thicker than their tiny fingers. Usually coloring books, but occasionally the kitchen table and the master bedroom wall recently. The latest fascination is pulling garland off the Christmas tree and draping it around their necks like a necklace. This season, we are zero for two in the “Santa picture” department. We went to the Columbus Zoo a few weeks ago, and after standing in line, they broke out into a terrified bawl when we approached Santa’s chair. Ditto at my company’s family party last weekend. Perhaps next year.

The girls love daycare. It is downtown at Grant Medical Center where Chris works and occasionally she gets to see them during the day. Chris reports that when she picks them up at the end of the day they scream “Daddy!” This is odd, because I rarely pick them up at daycare. The latest words of note added to their vocabulary are: “shoes”, “socks”, “duck”, “sissy”, and (my favorite) “stuck!”

This past spring we purchased a bike trailer to pull the kids behind me when I ride my bicycle. It has been good exercise and, after having spent all my vacation in 1998 in East Asia, Chris allowed me to resume my annual weeklong Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) in June. I am the volunteer webmaster and it was good to participate again instead of just writing about it. While I was bicycling in northeast Ohio, Chris reported to me, over a long distance phone call, that Marissa learned to walk. Chris also reported that Marissa’s birthmother had written a letter to us. A several weeks earlier, we had written Marissa’s birthmother to let her know that her daughter was happy, healthy and safe. Enclosed with her reply was a picture of her standing in front of her home. The shack looks to be about half the size of Marissa’s bedroom and you can see daylight between the slats, but there is a stoic look on the face of a single woman who has been through a trying life. Through the power of the Internet, we were able to translate her Vietnamese replies. She was heartened to here that her “Huong” was cared for, and she wrote of her difficult decision to give up her child. We’ve since sent a small photo album to her. We are hoping that these letters will give Marissa a sense of completeness when she gets older. A few months ago, there was a massive flood in the birthmother’s hometown and 600 people perished. Although we haven’t heard from her since, we hope that she is safe. We are at a loss as to the best way to help complete Kaitlin’s early life story. She was abandoned on the front steps of a bookstore in the middle of the night, and to this day, Kaitlin very much clings tight to me and often feels hurt when I have to let her down. She has also become very attached to her blanket and doll. Her dolly even dines with her in the highchair at home. Fortunately both Katie and the doll washable, and we’ve got a spare one waiting in the wings in case we need to toss one in the washing machine. The doll, that is.

The last of Marissa’s adoption paperwork has finally been completed. She became a U.S. citizen in early November. We dressed her in red, white and blue, but she was still oblivious to the ceremony. Actually the ceremony was just ten minutes of signing documents. Downtown, she mastered waving her little American flag while clutching an ersatz “Libearty” beanie baby we brought home from Asia. Her crib-mate in Vietnam, who now lives in my hometown of Westerville, became a citizen the same day. We’re hoping Katie’s final paperwork will come through sometime early next year.

After four years, Chris finally gave up being a Girl Scout leader this past spring. Sadly, none of the moms wanted to take up the task, so the troop was disbanded. Chris has since become the ad-hoc coordinator of the dozen and a half area families with children from Vietnam. Evidently she missed writing newsletters and coordinating meetings. I continue to ring with my church handbell choir, but I’m no longer part of the professional Columbus Symphonic Handbell Choir, which stopped performing this year. Also due to a burgeoning calendar, I took a sabbatical from the Columbus Symphony’s Picnic with the Pops Board of Directors and volunteered only in a limited capacity in 1999. But starting next year, I’ll be back on the board again, this time organizing their database of volunteers with a good friend.

Chris was promoted in September to Office Manager at her doctor’s office at Grant and she works 2 or 3 days a week. She can no longer complain about things not being done around the office, as it seems everything is now her responsibility. To get away from the stress of it all, Chris went on vacation with her mom to Toronto last month. I was a nervous single dad for a week, but everyone managed to survive. It has been a very successful year at my work at Applied Innovation Inc. I was promoted to Technical Leader at my work and I now report directly to the Vice President of Research and Development. I too am now subject to more meetings and paperwork, but I find the work quite enjoyable.

As you can tell, we have much to be thankful for this year. We hope the same is true for you.

Have a most pleasant holiday and joyous New Year,

Ken, Chris, Marissa, and Kaitlin Huffman