Buck Family Christmas Letter 2015

For those who might not have gotten our Christmas letter this year, the first in many, many years, here it is:

Greetings to you all from snowy, cold Minnesota. After a near perfect summer here and then one of the warmest fall seasons on record, winter arrived with a wimper and was also unseasonably warm, until today. It’s about 12 degrees outside as I write and the temperature at kickoff for tomorrow’s outdoor Vikings-Seahawks game should be about 0. We embrace winter, here, though, such that with temps in the balmy 30’s over the past week a local news anchor, anticipating this “arctic plunge,” told local denizens that they had a few more days to wear shorts before it got “really” cold. The Winter Carnival is coming up, which is always a lot of fun. It features ice sculpting and lots of winter-themed family activities. We’re looking forward to it. I’ve been thinking of late about our arrival back to the Twin Cities in late April of last year, just as the most beautiful time of year began and that perfect summer we enjoyed. As overnight actual temps dip below zero over the next week I’ve been thinking that as much as we enjoyed the past spring, summer, and fall, we didn’t really earn them. This coming year we will have.

So, for those who didn’t know before now, we’ve obviously moved back to the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). We left here over 12 years ago to move back to Philly where Samuel would be born as most of you know. We spent 2+ years during our second stint in Philly before moving to Northeast Ohio, where we spent the better part of the past ten years (minus a year-and-a-half in Texas as my dad died and where Nathan was born).  We made the painful decision to sell our house north of Akron (losing quite a bit of money) and came here to be near Kirsten’s family of origin again. Her mom’s health is declining and we knew it was important to be here for whatever comes next in that process. Though we’ve said this before, we don’t anticipate relocating again. We’ve done this just a few too many times. We’re excited to settle here, though. The Twin Cities have much to offer and we continue to be amazed by what a truly progressive community that engages in regional planning and cooperation can do. The infrastructure here is remarkable from the burgeoning light and commuter rail system…

North Star

to the many trails, parks, and lakes in this “cit(ies) of parks and lakes.”

Minneapolis- Skyline


Over the summer we met up with an old college friend of Kirsten’s and her family who live here now and got a chance to take their kayak out on a lake:


We also went to a Twins…


…and St. Paul Saints game:  where we participated in setting the record according to the Guiness Book of World Records for the “world’s largest pillow fight.”

CHS Field 2

We’ve also seen Lego sculptures

Arboretum Lego Butterfly

at the beautiful Minnesota Landscape Arboretum .

The Twin Cities also have a thriving, unique arts scene and a host of amazing local museums, including an incredible Children’s Museum. Among the museum treasures is the Walker Arts Center. The first Saturday of every month they offer free admittance and lots of great kids’ activities. We’ve been to the Walker twice so far since coming back and have been treated to amazing experiences such as this:


You can see Kirsten and the boys (Nathan next to Kirsten with their backs to the camera and Sam turned around with a blue Star Wars t-shirt on) in this amazing mural which highlights the Walker’s history and its relationship to the local community). Anyway, we’ve done all these things and so very much more. We’ve been to Ikea and the Mall of America multiple times. We’ve enjoyed local festivals and seasonal events. In short, we’re really trying to be present here both to loved ones and to our local community itself.

Speaking of community, we’ve re-engaged, though in limited fashion still, with House of Mercy (www.houseofmercy.org), the faith community we were a part of here for five years when we lived here before. House of Mercy is a church that focuses on “recovering the good news of the gospel” and that embraces the notion that “doubt is not the enemy of faith, but its partner.” Among the many ways we feel fortunate and blessed to be able to participate in this faith community, for example, is the simple fact that they give us resources (in this case, for Advent) like this:

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So we’re excited to be able to be part of this faith community again, and hope to deepen our relationships there in the new year.

These days Kirsten works for Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, a very small local children’s hospital (there are several in the cities) that is attached to Regions Hospital in downtown St. Paul. Kirsten says she likes Gillette and it’s good just to be established in a local hospital. She works on the “float” team and is still doing overnights, which is very, very hard and taxing on her body. Despite this, she still manages to be the most amazing wife to Robert and mom to our boys, whom she teaches to read


…does art projects with…


…and tromps through the snow with.


She does all this while doing mountains of laundry and making the most amazing, homemade vegan food including…


a vegan take on Hoppin’ John for New Year’s and…


home-made cinnamon rolls, a favorite of the kids, of course.

In short, Kirsten remains amazing.

Speaking of food, after losing 100 pounds through running starting in 2009 and then gaining 67 of them back and then losing about 47 more while doing a couple of half-marathons along the way, I (Robert) broke two toes and tore my meniscus a few years ago and found running too painful to continue in the short term. The result is that I gained every bit of my original weight back and more, much to my shame and chagrin. The good news, though, is that since moving here I finally had surgery on my meniscus and have successfully recovered, thanks be to God. It’s not pain free, but I’ve accepted the pain I know I’ll just have to live with now, and am grateful I’m not doing any further damage to my knee. Kirsten and I got Fitbits for Christmas, and I’ve found this new wealth of data I now have about my weight, sleep, and activity to be just the jolt I needed. Since the Fitbits arrive November 29th, I’ve lost about 21 pounds and have been walking nearly 3 miles most days thanks to Kirsten’s unwavering support. I’m so grateful and am hopeful that once a little more of the weight comes off and I’m putting less strain on my knee, I may be able to run again, Lord willing. Time will tell. These days I work for Rescare, for whom I am a Case Manager for clients who are disabled but choose to live in their own homes rather than a nursing home. I help to manage the waiver by which their services are funded. It’s interesting work that seems to suit me, at least for now. I’m grateful.

Samuel is now 11 and in 5th grade, and Nathan 4 and will be entering Kindergarten next year. The boys are doing well. For those who don’t know, Samuel was diagnosed a few years back as being on the Autism Spectrum (Asperger’s was his official diagnosis while that diagnosis was still in use). This and some speech issues and the very mild Cerebral Palsy that makes his heel cords tight are the only lingering effects from his extremely early birth. We are very grateful. Samuel is very smart and is a precocious reader. He finishes many hundred page books in a day and loves legos and Star Wars. He’s kind and loving and has a gentle soul. He’s amazing. This is Sam on his birthday, holding his newly completed Star Wars First Order TIE Fighter and wearing his Flash-themed S.T.A.R. Labs hoodie:

sam barry

Nathan is doing well too. Nathan is a fearless adventurer who has mastered sarcasm and finds trouble wherever he can. He’s mischevious and hilarious and knows how to work his adorable charm. Here’s Nathan showing off some of his Christmas haul:


This apparently is how Nathan rings in the new year:


This is how he chills on Christmas morning:


…and this is how he felt about being an angel in the House of Mercy Youngsters Christmas pageant:


As you can see, he’s a ton of fun, and we delight in both our boys. We pray that 2016 finds you delighting in those you love, and most of all that you know that you are the object of God’s delight. Best wishes and love from Robert, Kirsten, Samuel, and Nathan. Merry Christmas!

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