Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

2005 Holiday Letter

December 2005

Dear family and friends,

We hope everyone is having a pleasant Christmas (or Hanukkah, Eid ul-Adha, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Solstice, or Festivus as you may prefer) holiday. We are taking this opportunity to bring our friends up-to-date with what has been happening in the Huffman/Chandler household in 2005. We also wish to use up our 37 cent stamps before the first class postage rate goes up the second week in January.

Marissa is now taking piano lessons. She had her first recital at the end of spring and is currently playing Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. When another spot opens up in the piano teacher’s schedule, Katie will take lessons as well. In the meantime Marissa is attempting to teach her. As a piano player himself, Ken finds the second-hand lessons frustrating yet amusing to watch.

Katie went to horse camp this summer and loved every minute of it. She rode a pony named Walter and, when he didn’t want to be ridden, Katie spent time on a gentle horse blind in one bad eye named 20/20. Katie herself now wears glasses which have helped her in school immensely. But for some reason she likes the people in her drawings to have crossed eyes. We’ll now need to get new caricature return address labels to go along with those new 39 cent stamps.

Claire is now potty trained thanks to the determination of Grandma Margaret. Claire will occasionally drag the end of the toilet paper into the family room, with her pants around her ankles, before tearing off a few squares. We hope to have her master flushing and washing her hands sometime next year. She is currently reluctant to do so.

Like her older sisters, Claire is now in gymnastics. She’s in the “Tumblebear” class where they learn to hang from the bars, walk on tippy-toes and somersault. She has also started using the computer recently and is playing the ancient CD-ROMs such that the older girls haven’t used in years.

All three girls caught their own fishes when we visited the Ohio Wildlife Center this fall. And, at the ripe of old age of 42, Ken finally figured out how to cast a reel.

We are now a three computer family and even Ken’s willing to admit that’s probably one more than we really should have. But proving that you can never be too geeky, Ken added a wireless hotspot, a networked storage device, and a print server to our home network this past year. Dongles and doohickeys are everywhere in the basement den. For awhile there, Chris was reporting, on a daily basis, that her e-mail client was broken. Chris generally puts up with it though. Ken still blogs on his personal website, albeit a little less frequently and he has started doing every Sudoku puzzle he can get his hands on.

Our big vacation of the year was a Chinese culture camp weekend. While grandma took care of a too-young Claire, the rest of our family met up in a rural Maine camp with a couple hundred others who have also adopted from China. Among them were two families who traveled with us when we adopted Katie. The girls rode horses, cared for llamas, sang around a bonfire, and made Chinese crafts and foods. We listened to college students play authentic Chinese instruments in a small chamber orchestra and Ken was so intrigued that he briefly toyed with the idea of acquiring a Gu Zheng himself before he realized that he would have no way of learning how to play it. None of us has mastered the Chinese Yo-Yo’s we actually did acquire over that weekend either; even though Katie takes hers to school and practices at recess.

The camp was in the middle of nowhere, so we flew to Rhode Island and drove up the coast. The girls weren’t impressed by the visit to the Mayflower or Plymouth Rock, but they did enjoy it when we stayed a few nights near Acadia National Park. We had a family carriage ride at dusk up to the summit of Mount Desert Island and we stopped at several aquariums and a lobster hatchery near Bar Harbor. They got to pet sea cucumbers, starfish and lobsters. The girls played “Superhero Ninja Horsey” in the back seat of the rental car for hours on the way up and back.

Our cat, Bam-Bam, was diagnosed with fibro sarcoma in the fall. He has been part of the family for 13 years and is expected to live only through the winter. We moved his birthday up six months for an impromptu celebration of his life with us so far.

If you recall last year’s holiday letter, two tank-fulls of fish died from too much food. This year, only one tank-full of fish died—this time from a malfunctioning aquarium heater. We had baked fish.

These experiences are teaching the girls about the circle of life and it probably can never hurt for the girls to learn to appreciate those gentle creatures around them.

And we suppose that goes for their parents too. Happy holidays everyone.

Ken, Chris, Marissa, Katie, and Claire