As you may have noticed, our very favorite holiday tradition is the reading and writing of the Phelps Phamily Christmas Letter. It isn’t the usual letter, this one tends to lean toward the unusual, while still giving you the fairly standard family update. We get that it isn’t normal, but we are quite happy with whatever label you want to put on it.

We don’t think we are Santa’s gift to letter writing, but those of you who got the first of these letters in the actual mail, with actual stamps, asked over and over for re-prints, and some of you that are newbies begged for ‘prior installment’ copies. Well, here you go, have at it, who can deny someone who wants a good read with their cup of coffee.

What you may not know is that we tie our whole christmas theme to these letters – the tree is decorated in the theme, the christmas photo goes with the theme, the card that goes with the letter matches the theme, we have even had dinner in the theme! Someday, we may go hi-tech and show you the pictures, but really, we do have a life the other 11 months of the year…

We lost a little of some of the letters in formatting them like this; things like nifty fonts, or creative paper, but you get the point and the story is still there. Leave us a message if you have a favorite letter or you remember the events of that year, and sign up for the December notification of the next episode. Who knows what the year will bring and how it will show itself in the letter?!

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes, it is interesting how themes of the year intertwine and overlap. Years ago, we would have had Barbies also on this list, but age and priorities promote change. Nevertheless, one thing leads into another and what’s the phrase; the world keeps going on… (Did see the Barbie movie though. Loved it Greta Gerwig!)

January started with a baby shower for Shannon with a big fancy chair for the guest of honor and her swollen feet (Dream Luxe Party Rentals, Nancy Fox-Cannon Falls,) with cookie favors for the guests (Sweet Blessings Cookies, Beth Schroeder-Cannon Falls.) We noshed on Italian pregnancy cravings, and were more than happy to support this, weird as it was since it also happens to be a family favorite (Cosetta’s, St. Paul.) The rest of the month was consumed by work on the Artistic Mutt grooming salon for Liz, and more bookshelves at home for Chr’s (Twist Solutions, Cottage Grove.) More books in, with fewer going out, is an ongoing struggle of ours.

February was pretty uneventful, Shannon changed up job titles, and Hannah’s job seemed to morph every couple days. Liz and AJ got a fluffy new puppy named Illusion. We shoveled and blew a lot of snow. 

March was busy as baby Evelyn Mary was born to Shannon and Ryan on St. Patrick’s day, and thank goodness Carter’s in Woodbury still had one newborn St Pat’s outfit left on the shelves as we ran up to meet her. Alas, baby Evelyn was not able to attend the 100th birthday party of her Great Grandpa Keith Phelps a few days later as no newborn baby wants a 6 hour drive, but the rest of us made it. He requested bingo and cake with his family and friends, and he got a book of photo memories. Bingo in the ‘Phelps family style’ was apparently talked about for weeks by his friends and neighbors (Calista Court Senior Living, Winona.)

Chr’s took on a few side projects in the spring and drew up plan after plan for our yard. The summer was just plain dirty. We dug giant patches up and Chr’s put in a Kingston patterned permanent patio under the deck with some temporary planter boxes around it for Julie’s quest to grow more things (Gerten’s, Inver Grove Heights.) Julie declined to help much on the physical labor on this project as she voted for hiring it out and sticking by your principles is OK! She did however, harvest a world record haul in cherry tomatoes, huge marigolds, and 3 unexpectedly microscopic mini-pumpkins. ‘Cousin Eddie’ came from Iowa over 4th of July and helped us put up the cutest shed in the back corner of the yard. Julie and the son-in-laws helped, too, and gallons of Gatorade were drunk. Chr’s promptly voided the warranty on the structure and cut big holes in it which we made into Free Little Library Windows (Charter #171319.) We have so much fun watching the action at the library! It gets used often as it’s on a bike path and we are pretty laid back about kids playing in our yard anyway. Julie chalks ‘Would You Rather’ and ‘Public Opinion Polls’ on the path on dry days just to keep it interesting. Our 9 yr old nephew started a balloon business that same weekend and while we have not yet had reason to make him deliver balloons all the way to our house, we have gotten to see his creations, and he does make long distance deliveries if he happens to be in your area (Balloons by Solan, Cannon Falls.) We babysat often for the Grands, and trained in the neighbor girls as babysitters, too. 

The fall started with a driveway parking addition. We already had the section walled in, it just needed another row of block and some asphalt.  We used some extra blocks to shore up one spot in Liz and AJ’s yard that the dogs were trying to use as an escape route. Isla started kindergarten and now sounds out EV-ER-Y-TH-ING (thanks Garrettson School District, South Dakota.) She has strong opinions about most things. I wonder where she got that? Have you met her extended and immediate family?? Julie sat with her at her first Blue Dragon football game where she tsk’ed like a little old lady and noted that, “If they just practiced a little more they might be able to catch that ball better and not fall down so much.” Both Isla and Ruthie are in dance/cheer and Coach Hannah is back at it, too (Ultimate Dance & Cheer, Sioux Falls.) Ruthie is very attached to her baby dolls and carries one everywhere, dressed or undressed.  We went on vacation with the family in October, and it turns out, Ruthie is the best at making Evelyn smile and laugh and has to be hired out for perfect picture taking. The ladies in the family all looked fabulous in our safe tans (Spray Luxe, Spray Tanning and Permanent Jewelry, Nancy Fox, housed in Lookin’ Good Salon, Cannon Falls.)

 In the midst of it all, Hannah finished her MBA (University of Sioux Falls) and we will soon hear what her employer does with that information (Southeastern Behavioral Health, Sioux Falls.) Shannon is now a Program Supervisor of Child and Family Therapy with her job (HDC, Duluth) and her dog, Ollie, works there, too. 

Liz is working on her grooming business full time (Artistic Mutt Grooming, Liz Worth-South St. Paul) and would love to see your dog as a new client at her salon. Dogs like to look pretty for the holidays to make their people happy, and they always need that extra bath when the snow melts with a good brushing out and fresh trim!! Shameless plug, but her contact number is 507-213-1487 if you are interested in an appointment for any service and see the site on Facebook. Ryan has the first private home listing going for over a million dollars in Superior, Wisconsin, and has had some interesting commercial sales this year. We have seen some fun listings with him (Ryan Bayless, Commercial Real Estate Specialist, Re/max Results, Duluth.) He also plays drums in a new band, Booty and the Hoefish, and they play in the Duluth/Superior area. Julie and AJ still work at schools (South Washington County School District, Cottage Grove) and Riley is living his best life as a firefighter (Sioux Falls Fire and Rescue, Sioux Falls) and moonlights as an experienced Girl Dad chauffer. 

As 2023 comes to a close, we’ve got one more family bingo night scheduled with the now annual Wilcox Girls Craft and Bingo Family Zoom with the extended cousins (go Team Shopkins, they know how to sweep those games!) and we intend to read some more books (was this a surprise to anyone?) We highly recommend reading anything by Susette Quinn, the new family author (Welcome to Effham Falls and Tales From The Frozen North.) If the schedule allows we’d like to try to get a few days relaxing in the sun and sand, or among concrete dwellings. Nature, you know, can eat you, so Julie isn’t so found of woods. We live with two robotic vacuum cleaners and Chr’s really wants the robotic mower but Julie just can’t give up her weekly time with Bon Jovi during mowing season. Now if they invented an automatic snow removal system that played Taylor Swift, we’d be all over it! Julie and a friend spent a great deal of time and a few dollars trying to win those billion dollar Powerballs ( this year, but they just don’t have the right touch yet. YET. It has to go to someone, right, why not someone who has already thought to budget it out and would use it wisely? Does it really have to be random? 

As always, we wish you Peace, Love, and Hot Beverages, and shop local and small businesses this year for the greatest effect on your community and heart. 

                        Julie and Chr’s