Our dearest friends and family,
There was some dreaming this year of actually getting Christmas cards in the mail but then December happened and we have come to realize that it really isn’t going to happen this year. So we thought we would use the blog instead for our annual Christmas letter. We hope this finds you well and that 2016 was an amazing year for you. We had our ups and downs this year as expected, but there have been many positive changes and we are all looking forward to making the best out of the coming year.
Jason continues to work in the eDiscovery industry for Altep, having now been there for about a year and a half as a Principal Software Engineer managing their phoenix office. This year he also closed up a side project turned small business idea after a downturn in a couple of markets and the availability for certain data becoming publicly unavailable. He continues to have a strong passion for software development and is always tinkering and learning new things as much as free time allows.
Jessica made a huge change for Jessica Mauss Photography in 2016 deciding to only take on weddings, and sessions that go hand in hand with them, instead of photographing everything. Although the change made this a difficult year for her, she absolutely loves doing what she does and enjoys being able to focus on just one thing in business. She continues to balance her time between her business and the family, making it a priority to manage both. It is sometimes difficult finding that balance, especially with teenagers, but we are always reminded that we don’t have very many years left of them living in the house with us full time so she does her very best to make sure she’s around for whatever the kids need.
This year Jessica and Jason have been able to have some experiences that have helped us see what it might be like for us in a few years when we will move into the empty nest portion of our life together. The biggest one is that we were able to go to Thailand for a week for Dianna’s (Jason’s sister) wedding in October. Although Thailand had never been on either of our lists of absolute must see places, we both fell in love with the country. The people are so friendly and kind and the country is absolutely beautiful. It is definitely on our list of places we must return to one day. And it was so incredible for us to be able to spend that time alone together, experiencing new things and focusing that time on just each other. It reminded us of all the summers when Jessica’s mother would keep the kids for a month so we could focus on each other and strengthen our marriage, and we are so grateful for all of the times we get to do that. We also took a day trip together in the fall, our first time leaving the kids home by themselves for the entire day and evening, going up to Sedona. It’s absolutely beautiful up there and we wish we had more time to explore the city and gorgeous trails so we will definitely need to go back soon.
Bailey has had an incredibly exciting year this year. She turned 17 and is currently a senior in high school. In the spring, Bailey took 3 AP tests and passed all of them, having joined a very small group of students at her high school to successfully pass the AP Chemistry exam, as well as English and US History. She then sat for the SAT and scored very high. We went on only one college tour for her to Northern Arizona University, but that was enough to convince all of us that NAU is the right college for her. It’s two hours away from us so far enough that she can be on her own, but not too far that we can’t visit easily. She has since not only been accepted to NAU but has also received a scholarship that will pay for 75% of her tuition for 4 years. She’s been applying for scholarships left and right to help with the rest of her college so wish her luck on that. Bailey made a hard decision this year to not continue with marching band. Unfortunately last year was really rough on her as drum major so she decided that she needed to move on, but that choice did allow her enough free time to get a job. She began working at Popeye’s in October. Her Popeye’s is a little different because it’s part of the food court on the air force base near us so it’s nice because they pay a little more and their hours are a little shorter than fast food that’s not on base so she definitely enjoys that. She also loves working with her best friend, a huge perk to the job. It has been a struggle at times to balance work and school, especially when she gets too many work hours, but her makeup collection speaks volumes to how much she enjoys having her own income. This next year is going to be huge for Bailey as she will graduate high school and move off to college all before she turns 18. We are so proud of the young woman she has become. Her strong work ethic, empathy, and intelligence make us very excited for the future she is creating for herself.
Cole turned 15 this year and is a sophomore in high school. He finished his second year in marching band this year and had a very important role in Pit playing the xylophone. We were very proud at their pass and review (the final marching band performance they do just for the parents) to see how hard he had worked and how well he played his part. Marching band made state for the second year in a row (and the only 2 years in the history of our young school) and earned an excellent at state so we know he worked very hard to help his band be successful. Cole’s school successes are measured very differently from the girls, as it pretty typical not only of boys, but especially of autistic children. This year Cole has actually had one class (other than band) that he has had an A in all semester long and it’s been really fun to see him enjoying a class enough to work hard at it. He really loves Spanish and will sometimes come home and try to speak a little to Jessica (the only other one of us that has taken any Spanish). Interestingly enough, he is also taking psychology this year (Jessica’s major in college) and seems to really enjoy that class as well, so it’s fun for Jessica to see him take an interest in things that she found fascinating at his age. Cole has a very grand sense of humor, going as far as creating his own meme page on Instagram (trust us, you don’t want to follow it) and he’s usually joking around about something. This next year he looks forward to (hopefully) getting to start driving and moving to drum line for marching band.
Lindsay turned 14 this year and she truly amazes us all the time. She has a very strong work ethic, maintaining a perfect 4.0 while juggling her many activities: band, choir, theater, National Junior Honor Society, and her church activities. She’s decided to try out for cheer this week and most likely volleyball in the spring as well. This year she is finishing up eighth grade and will be promoting to high school, which is really bittersweet for us since she’s our baby. In the spring, Lindsay had a very large role in the school musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr, and she was so outstanding as Dorothy she still gets compliments from the school staff on her performance. And this coming spring she will be opening the school musical as Mama Ogre, alongside her very best friend who is playing Papa Ogre, in the musical Shrek Jr. Lindsay has really stretched herself musically, asking for, and receiving, a ukulele for her birthday and has added that to her list of instruments she is proficient at. She has also started uploading videos of herself playing the guitar/uke and singing on her YouTube channel as well as entering a few contests singing and playing and has done really well. It’s amazing to see her be so brave and conquer her fears so she can grow accustomed to performing publicly, something she wishes to do more of in the future. This next year Lindsay is looking forward to going to high school and starting marching band.
We hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas season, spending time with your loved ones and celebrating the birth of our Savior. All our love,
Jason, Jessica, Bailey, Cole, and Lindsay