Merry Christmas 1995 from the Holwicks

Dear friends,

We greet you in the name of our blessed Savior, Jesus, and hope that your family has a joyous Christmas. God has been good to us this year, much more than we deserve. I guess that's why I like to preach grace so much!

I am just getting over one of the worst sicknesses I have had in ten years, and the rest of the family is sick, too. I am calling one of my Christmas sermons, "Bah, Humbug!" Hopefully I can retrieve some positive point in it so the little ones don't depart in tears. Speaking of tears, one of Josiah's "friends" sat him down and calmly explained that Santa could not possibly bring presents to every child on earth in one night. He was utterly crushed. The dramatic crisis of faith was short-lived, however, when Josiah figured the reindeer are really fast and lots of elves help. Today he is wearing his paper reindeer antlers from the shopping mall's Santa and dragging ice skates around the house. The ground is blanketted with white snow which is now falling as freezing ice. Southern California does have its advantages, I guess.

Keeping with tradition, I will summarize 1995 for the Holwicks. On March 31 my astronomy club hosted a "Messier Marathon" where we attempted to sight 110 galaxies and star clusters throughout one night. Thirty of us started and only three made it all the way through the frigid night (Arnold Schwartzeneggar would be proud); I captured 97 objects in spite of heavy cloud cover early in the evening. My hobby has filled many nights and I added 2 comets, 178 asteroids, 282 galaxies and the planet Pluto to my "life list."

To enhance international relations we hosted a Dutch student, Maarten, for a week and a half this summer. Perfect English, knows more about the Civil War than most Americans, very polite - typical European kid. We showed him some New Jersey scenery (there is some) and of course the Big Apple. He left just before a local Mafia man (lives a mile and half away) turned informer for the gov't. It seems he got in trouble for shooting someone in the knee because they wouldn't pay a debt in time. Celeste and I have always been prompt in our payments. A neighbor up the street received a church member's mail by mistake (they live next door), opened their VISA statement, took his number, and ordered $2,500 of furniture. We love New Jersey! I would never do it to a next door neighbor; much better to visit friends in California, then...

In June I performed a wedding in Ohio that our whole family went to. Josiah and I got to ride on a steam train through Amish country. Daniel did not feel like going until the train pulled out of the station and let out a long whistle. Our best vacation of all was to Yellowstone this summer, the first time we have taken the kids. We camped in the Badlands of South Dakota at a site that was bone dry, until a huge thunderstorm raced our car back to the campsite. The storm won. Now we never leave the windows and flaps open to "air out" unless we also want to be rinsed out. The kids liked Mount Rushmore and ran right to the concession stand to get T-shirts. We camped in Yellowstone for a week and Josiah fell in love with Buffalo, especially after three of them stampeded past us near the Boiling Paint Pots. He bought buffalo coloring books, buffalo plastic animals, a buffalo shirt... You would be amazed at how violent these docile animals are in his hands. They can run faster than airplanes and they eat people.

We had two highlights in Yellowstone - one was hiking 8 miles into the Hayden valley and eating lunch surrounded by a herd of 500+ buffalo and not another person in sight, and the other was swimming in a stream that had freezing cold water on one side and a scalding hot cascade (from Mammoth Hot Springs) on the other. We toured geysers till we puked. Rebecca became a wolf fanatic and enriched the concessionaires accordingly. Some days we feel like throwing her to them... Daniel remained consistent as he has for at least five years - a forest ranger clone. He wore his Smokey the Bear hat, green pants, and a T-shirt printed with badge and green tie. The authorities were mightily impressed. To bond with this outdoor interest I have been reading Robinson Crusoe to him each night.

In October we had our first couples retreat for our church at a delightful Mennonite center in the Poconos. The theme was "encouragement" and it was so successful we signed up for next year. Maybe that one will emphasize "romance." Mine's been hurting this year, ever since Celeste paid $400 to take a nursing proficiency test. For weeks she studied and worried, studied and worried. We still don't know if she passed. Now that she has some free time she is considering learning how to play bagpipes. I kid you not. Our girls are practicing drumming with a police Drum & Bagpipe marching band and they invited Celeste to join them for four hour practices every week. Am I that ugly? I may have to grow my beard back (this is the first time my upper lip has been naked since high school). Celeste has also gone through changes, getting a first-time permanent. I can't tell the difference $120 made.

One last note. We got a cat from a neighbor this summer. It is cross-eyed. It had flees. Celeste said it was peeing all over the furniture and I had to have it spayed. I take it to the vet and he says he can't spay a male cat, but he would neuter it for me. Next time Celeste gets to explain the urine problem by herself.

David & Celeste and kids