Year 1

Dear friends and family,

Welcome to this year’s economically conservative version of our yearly update letter, devised when Matt and Tyra sat down to have a friendly

Caleb the clown

conversation with the state of their finances and reminded one another of how much money they spent on extra postage last year making photocopies of glossy images we wanted to share and stuffing long, word-rich letters into tiny envelopes.  Chances are, you’re reading this because you were sent here on the recommendation of a holiday

our corner of Syracuse: owned

card that was surprisingly empty.  We hope you won’t interpret this move as impersonal (and that if you do, you’ll forgive us): we were thinking that thisway we could share as many pictures as we wanted to, and in full, shiny, glossy color, and it might even be possible to get cards to folks’ houses before all of you had given up waiting and recycled all of your other holiday cards, like probably happened last year!

we ❤ texas

Our past year has been a rich and full one, although looking back to list events and accomplishments is a dizzying experience and a difficult task–so much has happened, and so very fast!  We spent last winter celebrating our marriage by playing catch-up with the most attainable aspect of the status quo, deciding that as married 30-somethings we should really stop paying rent and acquire a mortgage instead, so we started shopping for homes, and we chose one relatively quickly in the process (okay, it was the second one we really looked at, and that only because the first was closer to the old neighborhood, so it made more sense to stop there on the way), although it was late June before we were

Tyra delivers tickle-attack!

able to sign papers with lawyers and make our ownership official.  Most of the time between February and June was a whirlwind of phone calls to various finance and real-estate offices, which Matt gallantly handled most of, charming officials near and far with his accent, but we also managed to teach entire, successful semesters full of students along the way, and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to travel as a couple to Texas for our Spring Break in

campground balladeer

late March so that Matt could meet more of Tyra’s extended family. There, we made like good tourists, visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, stopping by South-by-Southwest for some music on Sixth Street in Austin, and driving up to Arlington to visit with more family farther north, being sure to eat lots of Mexican food in every town. As the weather warmed up, we took a short trip to Montreal to see Matt’s favorite band, and then Tyra’s mom came up to visit, instantly becoming Caleb’s new favorite person. It was also a good wedding season, awarding us opportunities to celebrate with several pairs of good friends locally, mixed in with a little rue for the farther-away friends whose festivities we weren’t able to be a part of. And, since we had a tent and a kid, we had to pack up the guitar and go camping!

In early July, right after we signed the papers for the house, we took Caleb on his first real road trip, to Raleigh, N.C. by way of Northern Virginia, where friends met us with

midnight painting with Hanah

an impromptu barbeque and put us up for the night to break up the trip.  He was a brilliant travel companion, obliging us by running around on a few playgrounds when we found them, but for the most part being quite content to hang out in his car-seat with his dad’s iPod and an audio book of Fantastic Mr. Foxon repeat play.  In

Smith-family builders

Raleigh, we spent a few blissful days with no responsibilities other than playing games with friends, creating in the kitchen, lying around in porch chairs baking in the heat and listening to the wind blow through the trees, and chasing small children, before repeating our long reverse-trip with the help of more friends, this time in Pennsylvania.  Then we dropped him off with his mother and headed further north, back to Montreal to see Tyra’s favorite band–and sneak in a Cirque show, since we were there

purple master-bedroom w/expert painter

and all. Once home, we threw ourselves into the task of trying to make“home” out of the house we had acquired, a task that we are learning is–and always will be–neverending, but good friends helped us get the paint jobs underway, and we made a lot of good progress prior to moving all of our furniture in.  The house itself is a snug little paradise of potential: it has four bedrooms (currently one ours, one Caleb’s, one a shared office, and one a combination TV-room for movie-watching and guest bedroom for any of you who’d like to come and stay), a spacious waiting-to-be-finished attic, a large living room and dining room (currently being used as Matt’s music room, since we haven’t finished the attic and don’t own dining room furniture anyway), a narrow, storage-space-challenged kitchen with adorable breakfast nook, three porches, two off the back of the house and one out front, and a full, walk-out basement that’s dry most of the time and houses the laundry; there’s also a driveway for off-street parking and a front and back yard, each with its own alarming tilt,

garbed gentlemen, stacked

as the house is most of the way up a tall, tall hill, a fact that terrifies Tyra whenever she thinks of trying to drive home in the snow, but which affords amazing skies and views to the Southeast.  When we moved in, its biggest detraction was its single (cramped, ugly) bathroom, but we were further blessed, in August, with a visit from Matt’s father, who spent a week sharing his skills, labor, and building-projects expertise with us, at the end of which our little house had gained a new downstairs powder-room and had lost a leak in the roof over the dining room window.  Because we like him, we also made sure there was time in the visit for walking in the park, drinking on the porch, and eating more Mexican food.

This summer saw Matt and Caleb spending many an afternoon at the giant pool in the park up the street, the whole family eating many meals outside on one porch or another, and Caleb and Tyra doing a lot of reading and writing in paper and workbooks.  We also managed a family trip to the Sterling Renaissance Festival, where Caleb, thanks to a combination of his own innate charm and hand-me-down garb handmade by Janet Napier, won the adoration of everyone he encountered, including the Queen, who knelt down to help him adjust

feeding the sheepies

his hat with her own hand.  And then at the very end of August, when Matt had almost finished planning his community college courses and was ready to begin another year of adjunct work, he got a surprise call from the private high school he had interviewed at the year before, where a new, last-minute position had just opened up.  In no time, he had been signed on as a teacher of ninth grade History, sixth grade “Life Skills,” and eleventh grade English, and within the first week of school had also found himself coaching intramural boys’ soccer.  In the months since, he has added advisory responsibility for several student clubs–including the “Dr. WhoClub”–and has agreed to coach track in the Spring.  Tyra has hardly seen him since September, but whenever she catches a glimpse of him–usually falling asleep on a pile of student papers at the kitchen table–he seems very happy!  We have managed to fit in a few (okay, more than a few) northern-climates Autumn traditions despite our busy-ness, frequenting apple-festivals and going apple-and-pumpkin picking, crunching through fallen leaves and

apple-conquerers Caleb and Ian

getting lost in corn mazes, and taking in nice, long walks in the crisp air and changing weather.  In October, we housed fourteen friends from down south for a weekend of craft festivals, more apple-picking, and house projects, at the end of which the ugly old bathroom had a new, quiet fan and the front porch was winterized with a full set of windows, instantly making it a snug barrier between the outside world and our bright, sunny cave, which also turned out to be a great place for pumpkin-carving.

pumpkin-carving in the closed porch

We had Caleb with us for Halloween, and took our little fireman trick-or-treating for the first time in our new neighborhood, then went to a party with adults the next weekend, which is where the pictures online of Matt dressed as Vampire-Bill Compton came from–on school dress-up day, he was much less dangerous as a cowboy.  The little guy had a great birthday

kiddo & the wolf slay the fur tree

week–one party’s worth with us–and then spent Thanksgiving with his mother, so we took the chance to dart off to Cleveland for a weekend to spend the holiday with friends and friends’ family, turning Nicole’s coffee shop into

all a-glow

Thanksgivingpalooza, gathering with hoards of other grateful eaters around the single biggest pumpkin any of us had ever seen.

The holiday season finds us winding school down for winter break–Tyra’s similar in schedule to previous years, as she is still teaching writing to college freshman at SUNYIT, settling down to grade final papers for the three classes that comprise this 7th consecutive semester, and Matt’s wholly different.  As a high school teacher, he only has a short holiday, but at least he’s on a private school’s schedule, so he gets two weeks off instead of the public schools’ one.  For his two weeks, and Tyra’s four, we’re looking forward to finishing some house projects, doing some planning for next term’s courses, and finally at least winning at least one major battle against the dishes and the laundry alongside having the welcome opportunity to spend a little bit of quality time with one another and with Caleb.  Our particular blessing this year is that we will have our boy with us for Christmas–and for the whole week leading up to it–so we’re looking forward to breaking in the “new” digs holiday style with cookies and eggnog and festive music by the fire, opening presents together under our very own tree on Christmas morning.  Matt cut the tree down himself, with Caleb’s encouragement and Tyra holding onto the top to make sure it fell on neither one of them!  We fed apples to deer and met owls at the tree-cutting farm, then brought our prize home strapped to the top of Tyra’s car and decorated it together.  But all of the outside lights, both on the porch and the tall, tall conifers, are Matt’s handiwork, and although neither of us is sure how he managed not to fall off the ladder–or how either of us have managed not to fall off of any of the metaphorical ladders we’ve been climbing, each alone and together, this year, we’re most blessed this December to have each other, safe and warm with a home to come home to, and to have you in our hearts (and contact-lists and computer-interfaces) to remind us that we’re loved and that we’re always close to our real families, no matter how far away we live from one another.


Tyra, Matt, & Caleb

(Our evolving photo-collection is at Feel free to browse, and come back often, as we’re still in process of trying to update backwards as well as add new content as it happens.)


One response

26 12 2011

you are a very lucky woman…. just like me!! 🙂 i love you!

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