The 1st Thomas Generation- Ted & Beth Thomas
January 2005 Family Letter

Welcome to our family and friends! We're glad you chose to visit our site. This will be a little different than our usual newsletter, with more pictures and more moving around, since this is a website. If you will click on your “favorites” or “bookmark” function in your web browser, you can save this location and come back quickly when you have time for another look.

PLEASE, before you finish, click on the "contact us" link and fill in your contact info. at the least.  For many of you to whom we have sent newsletters in the past, we have no e-mail address.  While you're at it, drop a line or two in the comments section.

Below you can see some of our family highlights from 2004.  Just click on a heading (or on the menu - above) to go to another page with further details:

    * 2004 Travel Adventures: Last year's travel included a trip to Orange County, California to visit Ted's brother Stephen's family, Sarah's spring break mission trip to the Bowery in NY City, Lydia and Beth's mission trip to Mexico with a group from our church, and a family vacation to Hatteras Island, NC. Oh, I almost forgot that Ted flew to New Jersey to pick up our new (used) van, and then drove it back!  And Serena just reminded me, when I thought I was finished with the newsletter, that I forgot her trip to England with her grandmother!
    * Family profiles: Bought a kayak. . . got hooked on Yugio. . . changed major to Philosophy. . . became a Guardian Angel. . . had an elbow operation. . . jumped off a 20 foot high ledge into a river. . . . Find out who did what in 2004.
    * Brazilian exchange student: We were a last minute replacement host family for a 16 year old Brazilian girl who came for a semester in the U.S.
    * Odds and Ends: From critters to piano strings, here's a few things that didn't fit in neatly anywhere else.

2004 Travel Adventures

Ted's parents invited us to California in February, to use up Emily's frequent flier discounts! None of our family had been there before, so we looked forward to seeing new territory. Sarah arranged her classwork so she could meet us in Atlanta and fly out with us.

We celebrated cousin Riley's 9th birthday, and Sarah's 20th. (By the time you read this, she will be 21!). Although it was only a 5-day trip, we managed to squeeze in visits to the Pacific Ocean beach, Disneyland California Adventure for Riley's birthday, Riley's soccer game, Emily's dance team competition, a boat trip around Newport Bay, and (too) many good eats at area restaurants!  Here we are on Stephen's friend's boat, with Emily and Riley, and Ted's parents in the background.

The Bowery, New York City
Here are a few excerpts from Sarah's posting on her website about this trip she took over spring break --

"So, for the last week i've been in New York on a mission trip.  I went with 12 other people (my leader included), and we stayed at the Bowery mission 6 days.

We flew in Saturday, and stayed till Friday morning. We led chapel mon-fri morning, helped cook and serve the food, sorted clothes, cleaned and waxed floors, painted a room, and stocked shelves.

We also went to Starbucks at least 5 times, ate out 3 or 4 times, went to Redeemer Pres. for church Sunday morning, went to Times Square at least 3 times, and saw enough of the city to make us all happy.

At the mission there were us (the volunteers), the disciples (the men in the program there who were becoming unaddicted to things, getting their G.E.D., learning how to be a Christian (i think they're all required to be Christians) and learning to become a productive citizen again), and the staff. The community came in 3 times a day for chapel and meals, and if it was cold, had a lottery to see who got to sleep in the chapel."

[I asked Sarah to reflect on what she learned from the trip, and here is part of her answer:]

"-another AGAIN realization: suffering in your life (if you're a Christian) is not punishment, it is surgery.  We attended Redeemer Pres. on Sunday, and the pastor preached an excellent sermon on David's reaction to the prophet Nathan telling him that his son by Bathsheba is going to die.  It's like Double Jeopardy for all you lawyers reading this: you can't be punished for the same crime twice.  Actually in this application you say it as: punishment can't be meted out for the same crime twice.  So, if it's true that you're a Christian, that means Jesus' death on the cross paid for all the sins you have committed + the rest of the sins you will commit during the rest of your life.  SO, it is judicially impossible, plus logically impossible that anything in your life can be a punishment for a sin, because that would be Double Jeopardy (Jesus already got the penalty, therefore you can't get the penalty for something when punishment has already been meted out for it).

-I am terribly, awfully blessed.  I get to breathe, sleep, eat, have and be with friends, help people, go to college, have clothes I like, have money for things I want, work for more money, have a wonderful loving family that adores me, be completely unworthy and yet be chosen to live as an immortal princess who's been adopted by the grand brouhaha of the universe, and write.  And 5 million other things that I never think about, especially when I don't get what I've set my mind on at the time.  Geez, I need to be slapped."

Aylesbury, England

I can't believe I forgot to put this in the first time around.  Serena had to remind me!  It was a sad occasion that led to this trip for Serena -- the death of her cousin Thomas (Ted's sister Lucy's son).  Thomas had been born with Spina Bifida, and led a challenging but happy life.  We didn't want Ted's mom to go over by herself for the funeral.  The only one of us that could easily be gone for that amount of time was Serena, who turned out to be a perfect companion for her grandmother.  She helped keep track of all the pieces of luggage, provided pleasant conversation during travel, and generally helped cheer everyone with her affectionate presence.  Besides functions related to the funeral and Thomas, Serena and Emily went shopping (of course!) in the largest shopping center in that region of England, and saw a small, picturesque village nearby in Buckinghamshire.  To top it all off, Serena returned sporting an English accent!

Cuidad Victoria, Mexico

(June)  This was Lydia's second time and Beth's first on this mission trip to help at a Christian school. Lydia mostly helped our team construct a retaining wall and a playground, while I taught English and recorder. The kids enjoyed games like Hokey-Pokey and Twister to help in learning left-right, colors, and parts of the body. (Yes, Beth did some serious teaching, too). We all helped prepare crafts for a VBS, and painted squares with animals, etc. to be made into curtains. As usual when experiencing a lifestyle somewhere else, I came away with renewed thankfulness for the blessings we have, but also impressed with the love and generosity of the Mexican Christians.

Hatteras Island, North Carolina

This delightful week was made possible through a small inheritance from my mom, which I decided to use in a way we could all enjoy. Our cottage was right across the street from the beach, and far away from the commercialization of Nagshead. We all pursued our interests: Andrew tried out his skill (or lack of skill) at surfing. Lydia and Beth went birding at the Pea Island Refuge, and then added Serena to try shelling on Ocracoke Island. Beth spent hours scrapbooking, and most of us tried out the new sand castle sculpturing kit we got for Christmas. Ted spent an afternoon meandering around taking pictures of house features that he liked. Add in puzzles, a movie, the Hatteras Lighthouse, a visit to friends in Kitty Hawk, and general swimming and soaking up the sun, and we had a very full week. We also managed to visit family and friends for 2 nights in Richmond and Williamsburg,VA on the way, and in Danville, VA, and Fayetteville, NC on the way home.

After all that traveling in '04, Ted and Beth (at least) will be staying home in '05!

Family profiles

Let's start at the bottom (age, not importance) and go up.

Serena w/Murgatroyd, our orange cat:  Yes, Serena is our new Guardian Angel.  I'll bet you guessed that, didn't you?  That's the name of her junior circle of Kings Daughters and Sons.  Ted's mom has been a King's Daughter for many years, and finally interested one of her granddaughters in joining.  It is a Christian service organization where Serena has participated in trash pickup, various fundraisers to benefit charity, visiting nursing homes, etc.  In the process, she has also learned about being an officer (the girls take turns being President, V.P., Sec't., and Treas.), and about parliamentary procedure.

Serena continues to be the most enthusiastic chef in our family.  She usually produces delectable treats; however, plans went slightly awry when she insisted on making her own birthday cake in 2004.  I came in the kitchen after she had put it in the oven, and happened to notice 2 eggs on the table.  "Um, Serena, did you perchance forget to put the eggs in your cake?"

"Oh no, I'm sure I (as Mom points to the eggs)...put...them...uh-oh!"  The cake was lopsided, with an unusual texture, but still edible.

Serena still takes piano lessons, participates in 4-H sewing, and delights a multitude of little old ladies whom her Nana takes her to see.  We think Serena may go into the field of Geriatrics, as a Social Director if nothing else.

Lydia with her horse Nino:  If you guessed that it was Andrew who bought the kayak, you were wrong.  I still remember the snowy day last February when Lydia and I dropped Ted off in Indianapolis for a business meeting, then continued north to Fort Wayne, IN to pick up her kayak.  She found a good deal on e-bay, and used her own hard-earned money.  (Have you ever found any easy-earned money?)  The kayak is bright green, so I felt a wee bit conspicuous driving back.  Lydia uses it on our small lake, on a section of nearby Clear Creek, and sometimes on Taylorsville Lake with her buddy Jimmy.

Other highlights for Lydia this year include winning her division in the regional and state 4-H Talk Meet with a presentation on pond ecology, providing our "winter meat" during deer season, and acquiring a horse!  Lydia had cared for this horse quite a bit while its owner was sick, and he finally gave it to her.  Here's a picture of Lydia with Nino (pronounced's a Spanish word with the wiggle over the 2nd 'n', otherwise known as a 'tilde.'  Nino is a Paso Fino breed horse.)

Andrew clowning around with Serena:  Nope, Andrew wasn't the ledge jumper, and his elbow is fine.  He's the one who got hooked on Yugio.  For those of you who are ignorant of the meaning of this word, it describes both a set of trading cards, and the strategy game you play with them.  I think it's a spin-off of a cartoon, but don't take my word for it (I'm almost ignorant, myself).  While it may be a way to sharpen thinking skills, it also seems to be a bottomless money pit as one tries to acquire better cards.  If you haven't tried it, stick with chess -- much cheaper and classier.  To be fair, I would have to give Andrew equal time, but hey, where does it say in the rule book that Moms have to be fair?

Anyway, Andrew is far too busy right now with senior year-related activities.  Oops, you don't get to hear about that 'til next January!  I will tell you that he's been taking a writing course at the local community college for his senior English.  In 2004, he continued in Louisville Youth Choir.  He's had several opportunities to do short solos this year.  He and Sarah both worked this summer at a Baptist conference center near us.  It's funny how kids will do things for pay that you have to use a cattle prod to get them to do at home.  In this case it was food preparation, cleanup, and housekeeping.

Andrew is still the family clown.  He fills the house with drumming wherever he goes -- sometimes on the drum set in his room, or otherwise on whatever surface is near his fingers when he stands still for more than 10 seconds.  He's also up to 6 ft. 3 inches.

Sarah with her siblings (& Midnight the cat):  We don't see much of Sarah these days.  Even this summer, she was working most of the time.  You must have guessed right about her, since she's the only one with a major.  A sophomore at Covenant College, she changed her major to Philosophy this year.  You can see how her siblings felt about her leaving to go back to college in August.  I'll include a few excerpts from her website to give you a taste of what she's been up to.  (All punctuation and spelling mistakes are her own!)

1/24/04  In other news, firefighting is awful. (She signed up to be a volunteer firefighter at their college station).   Imagine:  You know what it feels like to be fat, weak, overheated, half paralyzed, half blind, and unable to breathe all at the same time.  that's what I did for an hour today while in full gear (which weighs at LEAST 100 pounds), crawling around with the visibility of the 4 square feet straight in front of my face (only less half the time, because they put stuff over our masks to simulate being in a building full of smoke), and running out of air in my SCBA gear on purpose to practice dealing with it.  Let's just say I have rediscovered my claustrophobic fear of not being able to breathe.  And notice, SCBA is NOT SCUBA.... it's missing an important U (which stands for underwater... the rest of it is Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. The one we use to run into smoke and burning buildings is not for underwater).  So, tuesday and thursday and saturday i'm doing more firefighting stuff, and.... for some odd reason, i'm looking forward to it. I think i need to be shot or something.

2/11/04  guys, i have a rat! yes, that's right, for my General Psychology class, I have a rat to train. It's so cute... it's albino, so it's white with red eyes. and i named it Jade *big grin*.  I'm sorry, but sometimes (depending on my mood) i'm a nonconformist, just get over it. Yah, so anyway, that's exciting. i'll write about california later. like, this weekend, after my test is over (argh argh argh...i love psychology, but the tests are so much work).

4/20/04  Guess what *I* did today? Well, aside from getting 4 hours of sleep and skipping breakfast and lunch, all to finish a stupid education paper, I finished my Rat Project *big smug grin*.  So Jade finally learned to press the bar down for food, and then she finally learned that when the light was off, pressing the bar wouldn't get her anything.  If this is all very confusing then ask me and i'll explain it specifically.  Now I just have a ton of information to graph and turn in next wednesday to get (hopefully) full credit. Everything else that I have to do before finals start in... 12 days.

Write a 7 page research paper - due friday
Write 2, two page papers for New Testament - due by next thursday
Write 3 one page journals for Lit class, due by next friday
Write a lesson plan
Write a 2-3 page paper for my PE final
Study for a Logic test - friday
Study for a freakin' huge psych test - Monday
Read half of Mark and all of Luke, John, and Acts by next thursday
Memorize key verses from all the gospels and acts
Finish my psych notebook and turn it in next wednesday

8/30/04  i'm back. oh boy.  and i should be sleeping. i think that should be the motto of my college life. actually it's not true, i usually do sleep when i need to. usually. not now. even though i technically should read another 30 pages in my speech book before class tomorrow. but i already read the first chapter, and i bet we won't get to the 2nd chapter tomorrow. and we don't have quizzes in that class, so i'm not worried.

i love my new major. philosophy is fascinating. and, right now my classes are so much alike (history, philosophy, cultural heritage) that i'm learning the same thing in 2 or 3 of them at once and have trouble keeping classes straight in my head when i'm reading.

speaking of reading, i can do 18 hours of classes and the reading they require (a butload), but when you add 8 hours of workstudy, and 2 extra choirs (for no credit, just fun) and sleeping and meals and occasional fun breaks - I have basically no time to do anything but take a quick breath and plunge back in. it's GREAT.  except that doing things like this usually takes time out of the sleep part. on the plus side my workstudy is making me work hard enough that i'm counting as exercise for the moment. it's the lazy thing to do, but it gives me more time for other stuff.

family, if you want to know how I am, just imagine being hectic and confused, but very happy. maybe i'll post my philosophical connumdrums later.

12/5/04  This semester has been hard.  Now that i'm mostly through it, it doesn't seem as bad as I remember it.  But I had 2 different weeks with 4 tests in each, and 4 HARD papers to write, and not much time for leisure.  So i'm only going to take 14 hours next semester (instead of 18), and NO 300 level classes (only 200).  Also, I just found out tonight that not only will I have my favorite teacher for 3 hours ALL tuesday/thursday mornings, but I have great friends in both of those classes.  Then, my roommate is in my third class of the day with me.  So that makes me very happy, friends all day!!  God blessed me with AWESOME roommates this semester, they have been the best so far at Covenant.  We're all friends, and we have great fun and do stuff together, and have serious conversations, and don't get on each other's nerves very much.

So now it's just finals (and revising a CHOW paper) and then home for 3 weeks. I'm looking forward to next semester.

Beth:  O.K.  We're down to 2 guesses ; elbow operation and cliff-jumping, and it wasn't the first!  I'll bet you didn't guess, did you?  Not unless you went on the Mexico trip with us.  We visited a river for a R&R day while on the trip.  Everyone's favorite place was a healthy hike from where we parked (at least 1.5 miles).  A towering cliff borders one side of the river there, with convenient low ledges for jumping.  The kids finally talked me into joining in.  Lydia did it, too, of course.  In fact, she went up as high as she could go!

I still work 2 afternoons a week as a housekeeper, and I filled in for my employer's secretary for 2 weeks this summer.  Between the summer trips, working, and planning for another school year, the summer absolutely flew by.  (Yes, I'm still home schooling the other 3 kids).  Just when I thought I'd have a short breather in mid-August, we decided to host an exchange student.  Thus began a frantic week of cleaning and "doing" to accommodate her.  You can read all about it in the next section.  At left you can see me working on a new sidewalk at Emily's house (Ted's mom).  The work is ongoing, as we were sidelined by winter weather..

Ted:  All that's left is the elbow operation, so that must belong to Ted.  He was getting nerve damage in his left hand due to a bone spur on his elbow.  The operation rerouted the nerve from over the elbow to the inside of his arm.  The operation was successful (the move), and the nerve seems to be recovering slowly from the damage.  The doctor said it could take a year before things are (hopefully) back to normal.  He still retains the famous Thomas wit, as you can see in the picture to the right.

Ted divides his time between his business, helping his parents, fixing the regularly breaking things around the house, and church stuff.  He is still trying to get his baby consulting business out of diapers, as he puts it.  He also continues to serve on the board of the local Fire District, and on SCOPE, a sort of development watchdog organization in Shelby County.

Brazilian exchange student

Just when I was drawing breath from working full time for 2 weeks in July, and pausing before getting my ducks in a row to start another school year, we got a phone call from an AYUSA (a year in the USA) representative.  Some old friends of ours had decided they would be unable to keep the exchange student they had signed up for, and they recommended......well, us!  After talking and praying about it for a few days, we decided that we would give it a whirl.  Serena would be studying South America, after all, Sarah's room would be vacant, and the info. we had on the student seemed to indicate she would fit into our family.  Thus ensued a frantic 2 weeks as Sarah moved out of her room early.  (She stayed in Lydia's room her last week at home).  We also had to refurbish the hall bathroom that had been used for years by "the men" -- Ted's dad and uncle as they were here for their work on the farm.  Ted rigged a shower curtain and worked on the fixtures, while I made curtains and bought new towels/rug and CLEANED!  Now I have to tell you a little story about what happened when Ted took the toilet out to de-scale the waterways and try to make it flush better.  We never told Livia, for obvious reasons, but it will make a great tale for a newsletter!  You see, as Ted was poking around up into the toilet from the bottom, as it was lying on its side in our yard, he're really not going to believe this...... but there it was in the toilet.....a snake!  Somehow it had gotten all the way through the pipe system and up into the toilet.  Go figure.  That snake really liked it up in the toilet.  In fact, it didn't want to come out.  At all!  You would never imagine, unless you had worked on toilets (from the bottom), what twists and turns the water channel takes, or for that matter, your disposable matter takes after you flush your toilet.  Suffice it to say that the snake eventually got tired of being poked and drowned, and departed for greener pastures.

Now, about Livia.  This page is supposed to be about her.  Her name is Livia Hirayama, explained by the fact that one set of her grandparents emigrated to Brazil from Japan.  She looks oriental, as you can see from her picture, but she lives in southwest Brazil.  Being age 16, she was greatly relieved to be met by and connected with someone when she arrived in Louisville.  (Can you imagine sending your 16-year old daughter half a hemisphere away for 5 months to stay with somebody you didn't know from Adam?)  She was a sweet, affectionate girl, and needed all the support we could give for a little while.  Livia was our first "child" to go to public school!  She caught the bus each morn at the end of our long avenue.  And Ted and I actually went to parent-teacher conferences!  After some weeks of adjustment to English, a new family, a new school, new foods, etc., she relaxed some.  Making some special friends at school helped a lot.  By the end of the semester, she was probably away as much as she was here.  She was able to join a student tour for a week in December that took in the sights in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Here are some of the things we found out from this experience:  Electronics are a lot more expensive in Brazil!  One of the first purchases Livia made was a digital camera to use and then take back to her parents.  Livia, our shop-a-holic, also bought many clothes, not only for herself, but also to take back to family.  She had to buy another suitcase to hold it all to go back, plus her gifts to everybody back home.  Livia is a very giving person, and brought all of us gifts from Brazil.  She was originally going to bring us slippers (a Brazilian specialty?), but told us that they did not come as large as Andrew's feet!  Speaking of cost, Livia also told us that healthcare and concerts are much cheaper in Brazil.  We also found that Brazilian Fejoida, sort of a black bean stew, is very nice.  Livia always perked up when I fixed it.  And she became addicted to canned Mandarin Oranges.  Livia was in many ways a typical teen, interested in her looks, the latest fashions, and hanging out with friends.  She is also very close to her extended family in Brazil.  It was interesting to hear her compare life in the two countries.  We were enriched by her stay.  She and Sarah left within a few days of each other in January.  The house seemed very quiet and empty for awhile, but we still have lots of pictures and memories.  Maybe Lydia will be able to go see Livia, since I am sure she will explore the Amazon region someday!

Odds and Ends

Car Chronicles:
  Two transmissions dead, 2 front axles, one van junked at 172,000 miles, and another evidencing many old-age symptoms at 147,000....we were forced to buy a newer van.  Not finding what he was looking for around here, Ted turned to e-bay.  He found his great deal, but it was in New Jersey!  Even flying up there and driving it back, it was still a very good buy.  So far, we haven't regretted it.  My favorite feature in this '98 Chrysler Town and Country is the heated front seat.  Now if someone would only invent a heated steering wheel...!

Strings and Things:  Have you ever seen a piano restrung?  Well, now we have.  Emily had our vintage Steinway grand restrung this summer, which had belonged to Ted's grandmother.  It was quite a procedure.  I found it fascinating to watch while the tuner took off several sections from the front of the piano, in order to easily access the strings.  He took several days to complete the process, then had to return at regular intervals to adjust the tuning while the strings settled into their new home.  All 4 of the children play.  Hopefully, this piano will now last for many years to come.

Critter Critique:  You've already heard about Lydia's horse, and seen our 2 cats, Murgatroyd and Midnight, in some of the pictures.  Our faithful dalmation, Satchmo, died January 9, 2004, at about age 15.  It was a sad loss, but we were glad to see her suffering relieved.  She had arthritis pretty bad, and then had a stroke.  Our only other permanent residents are the fish, turtle, and crayfish in Lydia's aquarium, and her 6 chickens.  She does get eggs from them (which she sells), but otherwise they are pets.  Ted likes them so much that he has decided he wants chickens even after Lydia is gone.  We all enjoy watching them; they have such funny ways about them!

Well, that's all for this year!  Now that I know how to do this, it shouldn't take so long next year.  Don't forget to go to our "contact us" page and say a few words.  Hopefully, next year we can notify most people by e-mail when the newsletter has been published, so make sure we have your e-mail address.