Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Littlest Shepherd

The Monday before Christmas, Davis's preschool held their annual pageant. This year Davis graduated from a donkey up to a shepherd, and a darn cute one if I may say so.

Our littlest shepherd.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

Christmas 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

2011 has been a very happy and full year for our family. Marked by the fulfillment of a lifetime dream for Trey and a job change for me, it has been a paradoxical blend of significant change and real settling down into our home. We traveled to DC for our annual Memorial Day trip and discovered it may be time to temporarily pause that tradition until certain little ones’ legs and stamina grow, now that the strollers have been long retired. We also flew the whole crew down to Atlanta to visit Trey’s family for 4th of July. What a pleasure to see all 9 cousins together, running around thick as thieves. Around the house, we continued to make steady improvements, repainting the entire upstairs and replanting the grass on the tree belt in front of our house.

Genevie started preschool this autumn at the church school behind our house. She goes along with Davis three mornings a week and has become a fast favorite for her irresistible “yoo-hoo’s” called down the hallway as she approaches her classroom each morning and her compassionate heart for fellow playmates who shed separation anxiety tears. While 2 has been a challenging year behaviorally (isn’t it always?), it seems that she’s rounded the worst corner and daylight is ahead. Genevie is a complex blend of girly attitude and tough no-nonsense. She loves her baby doll Meh-meh right alongside dinosaurs and airplanes. Her morning greetings are full of sunshine and her love of music has only been amplified by a recent parent-child music class we are taking together.

Davis, 4 years old, attends Pre-K three mornings a week and has grown academically beyond what I ever anticipated at such a young age. His aptitude and interest in reading means that he’s already starting to recognize small words and knows the sounds for most letters. His memory is also remarkable, and he can quote lengthy dialogs from favorite films without skipping a beat. His personality is enigmatic. He is both independent and reserved, which often manifests itself as shyness in public. He feels things very deeply but sometimes struggles to express them in words. I suspect he has a very poetic soul and is maybe an artist at heart. He loves to draw or construct things, and I can see his right-sided brain working in a realm beyond the rest of us. For both his and Addison’s 6-days-apart birthdays in February we took the boys to NYC to see Mary Poppins on Broadway, which they both loved.

Addison has had a wonderful year in first grade so far. After struggling a bit to focus on his reading and “put it all together” early in the school year, he has benefited from a one-on-one reading instructor who is following the Reading Recovery program with him. In just a few short weeks he has made tremendous progress, and we feel very privileged to be in a school district where he can get this kind of focused attention. He has gotten very tall, quickly outgrowing last year’s jeans and sleeves, and at 6 years old is truly a help around the house both with his younger siblings as well as with chores. He’s lost a number of teeth and now sports the hilarious, lop-sided grin of grade school children. This spring he played t-ball for the first time. We all enjoyed cheering him on at his quick, 3-inning games and shared more than a few laughs at the awkward fielding and the massive helmets sported by the little guys on the field. Next year we will have two playing baseball and so the juggling of extra-curriculars begins.

This June Trey’s long-awaited book, Andrew Melville and Humanism in Renaissance Scotland 1545-1622, was published by E.J. Brill, Leiden, one the oldest and most prestigious academic publishers in Europe (established 1683). Needless to say, there was much celebrating in the Holloway house. It was the culmination of many years of painstaking research, writing, and re-writing and it was wonderful to celebrate its completion. Not surprisingly, Trey has already plunged into the next book, as well as doing some original translation of Melville’s writings. He has also been asked to contribute to a collection of essays on Reformed orthodoxy in Scotland to be published in 2013 and has continued to do occasional adjunct teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. For right now, though, he is able to enjoy the freedom to research and write unencumbered by the demands of an academic calendar. This spring and fall Trey flew down to Atlanta to spend time with his mom and siblings, enjoying a much-deserved respite from the rigors of daily life. Despite a disappointing end to the baseball season for his Braves, Trey quickly shook it off to follow this year’s impressive Clemson football team who won their championship and is now going to the Orange Bowl.

This year Trey and I celebrated my 30th birthday in January with our first night away since having three kids. We went to NYC, saw Wicked on Broadway, enjoyed fabulous dining and great shopping. We plan to repeat the visit the week after Christmas to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. The highlight of my year was starting a new position at another tech firm in Center City Philadelphia. I am one of two new Product Marketing Managers at iMANY, a contract and pricing management software company for Fortune 500 enterprises. The decision to leave my last employer was not an easy one but was necessary for my own career advancement. Despite the ailing economy, I sent out an initial batch of resumes to a few positions advertised online and heard back from my new company the very next day. Between the smoothness of the interviewing process and the generosity of the employment offer, God made it evident to us what the right decision was. I am so happy where I am now and am truly grateful for God’s abundant provision beyond what I could have ever dreamed possible. This year I also got to travel to some pretty amazing places for work, including St. Moritz and Zurich (Switzerland), Phoenix, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose. Next up is my very first trip to Las Vegas in January. In my spare time I’ve become an avid gardener, and while I continue knitting, it has taken a bit of a backseat to voracious reading. I’ve devoured more than 8,000 pages this year, joining a monthly reading group this past February that meets in the city.

After I finished writing this letter, my maternal grandfather suddenly fell ill with pneumonia and passed onto glory 2 days later. I came across a photo of him on my phone the other day from his 89th birthday celebration this summer, and I felt a fresh pang of sorrow. So many happy childhood memories center around him and my late grandmother. It’s hard to believe he is gone, but I praise God that he is now whole, with Mom-mom, and basking in the beautiful presence of our Savior.

We pray that 2011 has been full and rich for you too. May you enjoy great happiness this holiday season and throughout the new year.

Much love,
Becky (for all the Holloways)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bird of Prey

If you have a weak stomach or the sight of blood makes you queasy, you might want to skip this one. Two Saturdays ago, while I was raking the leaves in the backyard, I spotted an enormous red-tailed hawk that had landed in our next door neighbor's yard with a squirrel he had just caught for his dinner.

While he waited for the squirrel to expire, he spread himself out to this full width, tail fanned, wingspan extended, and talons engaged in a death grip.

The squirrel was surprisingly tenacious and it took several minutes for the furry tail to stop twitching.

I called everybody out to watch, knowing that Addison in particular would be rivted. Trey even took some video. It was fascinating and disturbing at the same time. In our sanitized world, we don't like to think about how predators obtain their nourishment each day.

Rarely do you get to observe it at such close proximity, sounds and all.

He was a majestic bird with gorgeous banding along his back and powerful, downy legs.

When I downloaded these pictures and came to this one I was astonished at the detail Trey was able to capture. Definitely a wild, untouched moment.

And despite the gore, I am grateful that we have hawks who keep our squirrel population at bay.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Grateful Nation

This has been a very hard week for my family. A week ago today my grandfather, Harold Davis, went into the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Forty-eight hours later, he was gone. I visited him Sunday night and could tell from his short breath and overwhelming fatigue that the outlook was grim. It seemed as though his will to live had gone. Monday night my mother called me to let me know that he was in the ICU and being removed from life support. I immediately went to the hospital to be with her and arrived just moments after he died. With the curtain respectfully drawn in his room for privacy for our family as we grieved, I was so immediately confronted with the ugliness of death. It is not the way things were meant to be. Everything in me cries out against the curse we live under, that every moment leads us inexorably closer to our last. It is unnatural, undignified, and harsh. As we all cried and held one another, I saw a message written by the ICU nurse on the room's white board: "Those who walk with Jesus are never alone." What comfort for us to know that the anxiety and physical decline that had defined my grandfather's later years were past him, and that now he was with his Savior in glory, body whole, spirit free.

This photo was originally posted by me on January 15, 2009 in a blog about my late grandmother, entitled Alma Newton Davis. My grandfather's name and birth date were already etched on the headstone at that time.
My grandfather was born in 1922. He died at the happy age of 89 leaving behind 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. He was an amazing man, never afraid to learn new things, one of the most computer literate people I have ever met, interested in history and politics, art and nature. One of the things I am most proud of him for is the time he spent in the Army during World War II. He was a medic and was part of the US military presence that liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. I visited Dachau in 1999 and the devastation and ghastliness of the place is something I will carry with me forever. I can only imagine what he saw and felt in those dark days.

We were able to locate his military discharge papers and arrange an honor guard at his graveside for the burial. It was an incredibly moving experience. Three members of the Army met us at the cemetery, saluting my grandfather's flag-draped coffin as it was carried from the hearse to the grave site. One of them stood a few yards off and played the mournful strains of taps. The two remaining officers then removed the flag from the coffin, folded it, saluted it, and presented it to my mother saying these words: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."

A grateful nation. I could scarcely draw breath at those beautiful words. I was and am so proud.