Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Greetings from the Hsu family! We hope all has been well with you this year. We’re grateful to still have jobs in this economy, so we can’t complain. This summer we managed to get away for a week in Wisconsin Dells, where we avoided all the waterparks and instead enjoyed the boat tours, mini-golfing, go-karting and a magic show.

Our main entertainment indulgence this year was seeing various musical shows. We saw a local production of Miss Saigon, the Broadway tour of Rent with two original cast members, the farewell tour of Topol as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and a high school version of Les Miserables. We also went to the amusing 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the romantic The Light in the Piazza, and the Tony Award-winning best musicals Spring Awakening and Jersey Boys. We took the kids to a stage version of Disney’s Aladdin, and Josiah saw Seussical the Musical on a school field trip. We also caught a musical revue of 100 Years of Broadway. (Not surprisingly, we also like the new musical TV show Glee.)

Elijah is doing well in preschool. He loves the art table and the computer. He inherited Josiah’s Leapster and enjoys his Dora and SpongeBob games. Extra speech therapy has been helping him communicate more clearly, and he participated in a reading recital through his literacy group. He can read Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie books aloud with little problem. After he turned four he moved up to the big kids’ class at church. And he also learned how to unbuckle the seat belt on his car seat. Sigh.

Josiah is in 2nd grade now and is having fun in the district’s gifted program. He started piano lessons on our new (used) baby grand, and he enjoys it well enough that he practices piano for fun without needing to be reminded. He also took a chess class and likes his new strategy game Pentago. Josiah volunteered at some Chicago 2016 Olympic bid events and handed out wristbands. He is enthralled with his Nintendo DS and various Teen Titans and Lego things.

Ellen was thrilled that Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog for women ran her article about Elijah, “The Day We Let Our Son Live.” It was the top-ranked post for the month. She also had a moderate amount of travel for InterVarsity Press, with managerial meetings and business trips to Germany, Dallas, Madison and Denver. She continues to plan and lead worship at our church, and she plays a lot of Scrabble on her iPod Touch. Ellen will be serving as IVP’s bookstore sales manager at Urbana 09.

Al was the commencement speaker at Crossroads College this spring, fifteen years after his own graduation. He also gave a devotional message to the board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, planned and led a publishing seminar at IVP, taught a class at Willow Creek Community Church and wrote an article about filmmaker John Hughes for ChristianityTodayMovies.com. His PhD studies are going slowly but well, and he celebrated fifteen years of working at IVP. Al will be serving as IVP’s book info booth manager at Urbana 09.

And now for our annual reading list: We went on a science fiction kick this year and highly recommend Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of Men, in which Jesuits in outer space face cosmic theological questions of suffering and evil. We also read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Piers Anthony’s Split Infinity and Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing, the sixth book in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Other fiction Ellen liked included Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Lynn Austin’s Though Waters Roar, Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, Jennifer Erin Valent’s Fireflies in December, Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance, Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups.

In nonfiction, Al thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, a fascinating inside account of a conservative evangelical subculture. The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs is on a smaller scale than his previous books but still great fun. In-N-Out Burger is an engaging history of the beloved burger chain. Dalton Conley’s Elsewhere, U.S.A. and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers provided interesting cultural insights. And we commend our friend Caryn Rivadeniera’s Mama’s Got a Fake ID.

Josiah read through the entire Magic Tree House and A-Z Mysteries series and started working his way through The Chronicles of Narnia. He enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown, Teen Titans, Amelia Bedelia and Hardy Boys books, Foxtrot comics, Lego magazines and the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary.

Some IVP books that we’re pleased to have published this year include Soong-Chan Rah’s prophetic The Next Evangelicalism, Jim Belcher’s well-received Deep Church and James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful God. Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church was excerpted and featured as a cover article for Christian Century magazine. International AIDS activist Princess Kasune Zulu tells her extraordinary story in Warrior Princess. Societal and global justice issues are highlighted by Julie Clawson’s Everyday Justice, Mae Cannon’s Social Justice Handbook and John Perkins and Charles Marsh’s Welcoming Justice. A helpful guide to immigration policy reform is Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, and Green Revolution by Congressional candidate Ben Lowe calls for a new generation of environmental stewardship.
N. T. Wright’s Justification got a lot of attention, and John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Atonement cracked Amazon’s top 100 in sales rank. And our bestselling book of the year was … Finding God in the Shack by Roger Olson.

Well, that’s more than enough for this year. May you experience the peace and presence of God this Christmas season, and blessings to you in 2010!