Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

2003 Holiday Letter

December 2003

To friends and family, near and far,

This past March, with Marissa and Katie at Grandma Chandler’s, we traveled to China to adopt Fu Dekang. She had spent the first ten months of her life at the Chongqing Fuling First Social Welfare Institute in Fuling. The rural community sits on the bank of the Yangtze River that runs through central China. A large portion of her hometown was submerged when China’s Three Gorges Dam opened in June. She now goes by the name Claire Elizabeth Huffman. Our timing was fortunate as the SARS outbreak halted all adoptions for six weeks shortly after we returned.

Claire was happy and content from the moment we met her. She had a slight cold and cough, like all the other babies in our group. Illnesses are difficult to contain when there are fifty babies in two adjoining rooms. It is share and share alike. There were three caregivers for those babies when we visited the orphanage, presumably the normal ratio. All in all, the babies seemed rather content and quiet. When we visited the orphanage, black vinegar was steaming in the room to sanitize the air while the children were cruising in wheeled walkers (the kind that have been banned in the States for years). They spent a substantial portion of their day without individual attention so she was delayed developmentally slightly. When we received ten-month-old Claire, she was unable to sit up unassisted, roll over, pull herself up, eat solid food, let alone crawl. With just some love and attention all of that changed and she was sitting up independently within 2 days, rolling over in about 4 days and attempting to escape from the hotel crib before we arrived back in the States. It took a few weeks for her to eat food but sure loved her bottle. She was quite the chunker and the largest baby within our travel group.

Claire has three words in her vocabulary and seems on the verge of talking. Although they are not partial to when she gets into their stuff, Marissa and Katie adore their little sister most all of the time. They are very helpful, with Katie being the more nurturing of the two. Katie did teach her how to suck her thumb. Claire’s most recent feats are climbing out of her highchair, climbing on top of the table, and pushing the kitchen chairs around so she can reach things on the counter like her big sisters.

Marissa and Katie attend morning Kindergarten and enjoy school. They look forward to dragging their wheeled backpacks to the bus stop each day and riding the school bus to school. Katie definitely needs the wheels on her backpack as it is almost as big as she is. They are in separate classes with an almost identical curriculum. The toughest part is remembering what schedules, papers, and forms belong to which child—but mom is up for the challenge. We are losing our adult code language since the girls are starting to spell small words.

We went on an overnight camping trip this summer at the local state park. Marissa and Katie were so excited to use their sleeping bags, play with the flashlight and have their own room in the tent. Claire didn’t sleep a wink since she was too busy jumping on the air mattress and literally bouncing off the tent walls. She did dine on her first handful of dirt while on the trip. While camping, Marissa asked when the bats were coming out to eat the mosquitoes. She was disappointed when we said there weren’t going to be bats out that night.

Also during the summer, Marissa and Katie went to ice skating day camp at the Chiller ice complex in Dublin. The camp included daily crafts, lunch, group skating lessons and skate time. We were pleasantly surprised that on after their first lesson they were able to skate/stand independently. Much different than the back-breaking drag around the rink that Ken had to do with them last year. They also continued with another round of swim lessons and, this fall, enrolled them in a real gymnastics class. While no profound talent has emerged for any one of them, the girls enjoy these classes immensely.

Marissa tested our parental patience this past year and spent many days/weeks without television or computer privileges. We are now in the process of tearing the house apart to look for her misplaced glasses for a second time within a month. Katie usually is a little more cooperative but is not above tactical pouting when there might be something to gain. Ken is so looking forward to having three adolescent girls in the house at the same time in the not too distant future.

In June, Ken rejoined the 300 mile Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure around Dayton. He managed to avoid much of the rain that hit Ohio that very wet week. With turnabout fair play, Chris and her mom took an extended weekend to Las Vegas and are looking forward to another getaway next year. Our tenth anniversary is next year, and Chris is exploring options for our ten year anniversary. We plan on doing that together.

It looks like Ken’s employer, Applied Innovation Inc., is finally recovering from the slump in the telephone industry. He finished the project he had been leading for the past year and he’s enjoying working on another. It’s good that the layoffs have ceased. He also has taken up the hobby of web blogging to no apparent audience. We have recent pictures of all three girls on Ken’s narcissistic website,

Chris is still working at the orthopedic practice at Grant afternoons and evenings one day a week.

Because of an Easter time hailstorm, our house got a make over in late November and early December. It has a new roof and the siding is no longer Wedgwood blue but rather mocha brown. The contractors did a good job, so much so that they seem to have earned the bid on half the houses in our neighborhood. A few weeks later than usual, the exterior Christmas light are up, including the recent addition of three nodding reindeer. Marissa takes great pleasure in turning them on each night. We are surprised they haven’t been given names.

It has been a good year.

Hoping your year was pleasantly eventful as well,

Ken, Chris, Marissa, Katie, and Claire