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Wow! Another year gone! A lot has happened this year with all of us.

First of all, we sold our house and are in the process of building one which will take three kids, two dogs, and an office. For now, we're renting and driving to the land as much as possible to see the progress on the house - slow, slow, SLOW!!!

Our house in the US is still a work in progress but it is habitable for when we go over. We're all here now, concrete floors and no sheetrock on the wall, but we've got the basics in furniture and facilities, so its comfortable. Hey, at least it has a roof, huh? We return home on New Year's eve, but hope to be back for Christmas 2007.

I’ve been working fulltime since July, however I will go back to casual from February. The business keeps us both busy, and we’ve reached a stage where we both enjoy it for the most part

I thought I was done with all my study, but I've decided next year to sit for my Public Practice exam. I have been qualified as a CPA for a year now, but realised that as a CPA, I can't even give bookkeeping advice to clients without the public practice cert. So here we go again!

Jess is now 15 and she will get her learner’s permit on her 16th birthday next September. Kahni is now 12 and got braces earlier this year. She’s just growing taller and taller and is going to have a real style in a few years. She broke up with her most recent boyfriend a couple of weeks back because “I really think at 12 years old that I’m a little too young to have a boyfriend” I had to suppress a giggle hearing that wisdom from my little girl.

Jordy is now four and very much trying to read and do simple math and seems really into astronomy. He can tell you all about the planets, stars, constellations and satellites. He’s not shy and pretty much walks up to anyone and introduces himself and asks them a million questions!

Monte has lost count of his birthdays and keeps realising his age every time I get him to climb a ladder or when I decide we need to build something. That’s why we’re taking such pleasure in someone else building our new home. It will have enough room to accommodate our office, and a couple of living areas, four bedrooms and enough yard for Jordy to play in

Last Christmas I woke up two days after Christmas with horrible stomach pains and ended up in hospital for three days with an infection. It took two months before I was able to walk without pain and we still don't really know what it was. So I'm a little scared here again this year. We'd had plans to stop in Fiji for a few days on the way home, but had to postpone that for a couple of months. We finally got to Fiji in late February, and it was a fantastic break! We're really looking forward to going again, but I think our new money pit house is probably going to set us back a while. 'Sides, Fiji probably isn't really ready for us just yet.

For those at HEO, I know that the first year after a marriage ends is so very hard. My first Christmas was such a blur. It took a long time to get past the loss of what I'd perceived to be "family". There was no longer two parents and kids and extended family. Now it was juggling half days on Christmas, who was going to have the kids the night before and have the pleasure of them waking up on Christmas day at home. All the traditions seemed too painful to rehash, so I think I pretty much let Christmas go that year.

But a family Christmas doesn't really matter just because its different. It doesn't matter if its only Mum and the kids, Dad and the kids, or Mum and her new girlfriend and the kids. Family is about the traditions we create. If the old traditions are too painful, then create new traditions!!!

This is the second year of seven that we have spent back in the US with Monte's family over Christmas. Last year I told him that I really wanted a real tree. We used to sell cut trees for Christmas when I was a kid, and though the Christmas trees in Australia are pretty spindly (slash pines), there was something nostalgic and special about a real tree after years of K-Mart 6ft fake trees.

Now, I told him I wanted a BIG tree, but I had no idea on how big it would be. The tree reached around 11 foot high. So this year, he just had to top that. The one we have now in the "big blue house' is around 12 foot high and about 6-8 foot wide. I realised that this is our special tradition. One of many that we've just unconsciously developed over the past few years.

So, if there's anything you can do for yourself on your first Christmas apart - create a new tradition. Start a new ornament collection, change the decorations from baubles to bows, cook a ham instead of a turkey. Just something to make this Christmas uniquely yours.

So, till next year, take care.

Much love

Monte, Ros and family

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