Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christmas Letter 2011

OK. I give up. It's not going to happen. I put together my Christmas letter thinking I would be able to send it out at least by Orthodox Christmas. But I put off too many things that when I should have done it, other events (including the passing of one our beloved friend and one of our church founders, Dusan) delayed its printing. So I will publish it here in hopes I can direct some of my family to the Blog to receive our belated-belated Christmas greetings.

Christmas Greetings from

the Mancusos!

It must seem strange getting a Christmas card in January, right?

In our church Christ’s birth is celebrated on January 7. As a family we have been giving out presents on December 25 and going to church for Christmas on January 7. This year our family decided to follow the tradition of our Orthodox church when celebrating Christmas. If you Google “Julian Calendar” and “Gregorian Calendar,” all of this will be clear. As for us, this means I get 13 extra days to order presents online, get discounted goodies, and write Christmas letters!

This is going to be a long Christmas letter because we have had a year like we haven’t had in a long time. Our oldest daughter, Rose, left for college in August, and we’ve been adjusting ever since. Because she has been my unpaid babysitter for nearly a decade, we have had to learn how to do simple things as a group. It has required a little re-training and re-adjusting. In her absence, the house acquired a simple rhythm and peaceful chaos. But, since Rose is only 90 minutes away at Coker College in Hartsville, SC, we get to return to our normal mega-chaos every now and then.

Rose is doing very well in school. She received almost a full scholarship to college and is studying music-education, which is a double-major. She was the only freshman accepted into the chamber choir. Since she has been home-schooled almost all her life, our biggest fear was her adjusting to a normal academic setting. Despite some misadventures her first semester, she is now thriving both socially and academically without us—which is more a relief than you can imagine.

Ella is likewise loving school. She is breezing through her math and history programs, reading anything and everything within her reach. One of her birthday presents was a book-light. For Ella it was being given a brand-new privilege: reading at night. She is singing soprano in our church choir and is excelling in her piano lessons.

Margaret is likewise taking piano lessons and seems to be vocally and musically inclined like her sisters. Even though she sometimes struggles academically, she makes up for it all with her wit and good humor. A couple months ago she decided to dig a catfish pond in our woods. The hole is now six feet deep and eight feet wide. We haven’t yet figured out how we will ever keep water in the pond (or keep the catfish alive, named Vladimir and Gabriel), but we’re having fun all the same.

Max and Mark are consummate boys. During baseball season they are outside dreaming of baseball and tumbling all over each other with a baseball before school hours. During football season they are outside calling plays and tumbling all over each other with a football before school hours. After school they tumble and roll with whatever sports imagery they need. This is a new kind of academic beast for me. My daily goal is just to hold them down long enough so they can learn to read, to do math and chores.

This year we have travelled and vacationed more than ever. Margaret and Rose travelled to Ohio to attend the 90th birthday party of my Great-Aunt Margaret in July. They returned with historical tales and genealogical inquisitiveness.In September our family took our first long vacation in over 10 years to a beach house in Myrtle Beach. Despite nearly losing my youngest son in the ocean during a rip-tide, we enjoyed our time immensely, going to an aquarium, a water park, an historic plantation, and a pirate dinner-theater. The last day we went to the beach at sunrise and saw thousands of fish silhouetted in the waves and jumping out of the water. Ella and Max actually saw a shark make one of those nature-channel jumps by the pier. The whole experience was more than magical and truly relaxing (except for the rip-tide incident, obviously).

In November the youngest four and I took a road-trip through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. We met up with my sister and my parents in Lexington, KY to visit some of the horse racing sites in the area.

At Thanksgiving, a few days later, my brother and his family, my sister and her two kids, and I with the youngest four stayed in the historic Hadley/Harvey home in Wilmington, Ohio. We partook of the traditionally magnificent Hadley-Farm Thanksgiving Feast with homemade pies, caramels and more sides than one could ever imagine (there was also turkey). My cousin Christine and her husband opened up the 200+ year old museum-house so we could “camp” there for three days. The children played football in the front yard and spent hours looking at the mammoth tusks, arrowheads, deer-heads, and innumerable other artifacts contained in the house and barn. We heard intriguing family history that culminated in a tour of the Quaker church and cemetery in which many of my ancestors are buried.

We took an Eastern route home, making a spontaneous visit with my cousin David and his family on the way. The children enjoyed playing lava-monster and parachuting with their long-distance cousins. On our way home we drove the loopy and hilly roads of Southern Ohio on our way to visit an Orthodox monastery in West Virginia. There we visited with friends, petted goats, saw soap- incense- and candle-making rooms, and walked over the mountains in the rain. The boys went through five pairs of pants within 3 hours because of rain and mud puddles.

In early December Fr Mark and I went to Miami, Florida for a clergy conference. I hadn’t planned to attend, but a parishioner donated his flyer miles so I could go. Coincidentally, it happened that the day we left was our 20th anniversary. Even though we were supposed to leave on separate flights, my flight was so ridiculously delayed that the airline allowed me to reschedule with Fr Mark. Even though we were supposed to be separate, we ended up riding together on this historic flight side-by-side.

In Miami we were given a tour of the city on an open-air double-decker bus—and yes, we were on top. We then took an airboat tour of the Everglades, including an exotic animal exhibit, culminating in an alligator handling—yikes!

The next day, during a church service, Fr Mark was made archpriest. This is a huge honor for him and our little parish. Usually it is given to priests after fifteen years; Fr Mark was made archpriest after eleven. I’m not sure if I can express how proud I am of him, but I will take this opportunity to say so. It is well deserved and hard-won, Glory to God.

I am still painting, working to beautify the new church we acquired last year in December. It is an honor beyond words to be able to be able to do so.

Yes, this was a long Christmas letter. I apologize for it’s length, even though I won’t say it was tardy!

May Our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you and grant you peace and joy in the New Year!

With love from,
The Mancuso Family