Christmas 2016

From Chris and Kellie
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Greetings Friends and Family!

We thought that after the adventures of the last year, we would take some time off from travel and excitement. Yeah, right...

We started off the year teaching Primary. This year we have the five-year-olds. Both of us enjoyed teaching them a lot. Chris did most of the actual lesson-and-story-telling, while Kellie was a professional at keeping the kids in line.

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In January, we were still hosting Chris's family and recovering from last year's holiday season when Chris found out that he would be traveling to Belgium for work. Kellie had never left the United States before, despite being an Air Force brat. So when Chris informed her, she was not going to let anything get in her way from going with. The way things work, it wasn't any more expensive to host Kellie in Chris's hotel room, and both of us could eat off of Chris's per diem, so our only expense was a plane ticket for Kellie. We spent the rest of the month looking up flights and arranging for her passport. We also traded in Chris's car for an SUV.

February and March were pretty quiet as far as action goes, but we heard about several more of Kellie's missionaries getting married, so we got to plan trips all over the western United States. In April we went to Utah for one of these weddings.

May was the big Belgium trip. Kellie almost didn't need a plane, she practically bounced across the ocean, she was so excited. We flew on Icelandair, through Keflavik Airport on Iceland. We highly recommend this to all of you who are looking into trips to Europe, especially if you live near Denver or some other airport that Icelandair serves. Kellie discovered Icelandic chocolate on the flight over. We left Saturday evening and landed in Iceland on Sunday morning, but it never got completely dark on the way over. On the way over, we exited the United States right over the Northwest Angle, that funny bump on the northern border of Minnesota. We also flew over Greenland and saw all the fjords on the coast and the icebergs floating in the ocean between Greenland and Iceland. Kellie got plenty of pictures on the way over. Kellie got her precious passport stamp in Iceland, after which we hopped on a flight to Brussels. Once in Belgium, we rode a train to where Kellie got to visit the wonderful, ancient city of Liège, Belgium, while Chris got to see the beautiful scenic interior of the Saturne meeting room in the Liege Space Center. Despite Kellie knowing only about five words of French, she never got lost. She was brave enough to talk to anyone and to try kidneys for dinner. Our favorite food was raclette, a fancy cheese that we melted. Belgian chocolate is every bit as awesome as advertised. Pictures are posted on the Chris and Kellie website.

In June we went to another wedding, in San Diego, California. The wedding was for Sister Odom, another of Kellie's missionaries, and was held in the beautiful San Diego Temple. The ring ceremony and reception was in Temecula, CA. We stayed in the city of San Ysidro, CA, less than half a mile from the border with Mexico. We could see the giant Mexican flag flying on a pole on the other side of the border, from our hotel balcony. We had a rental car, so we drove all over southern California, all around the San Diego Bay, all the way to the temple at La Jolla, California, and all the way to Disneyland in Anaheim. We ended up just having dinner and exploring the shops at Downtown Disney just outside the gates of Disneyland.

In July, we went on a trip to Montana and Family Drama. Kellie's parents drove from their place in Oklahoma out to pick us up. We then went from there to Aunt Gay's house in Nebraska, to Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse in South Dakota, and onto Glendive MT, the ancestral home of Kellie's dad. We spent a couple of days seeing all the sights (including the power plant at Fort Peck Dam) and visiting all of his family. From there, we drove to Billings MT, the ancestral home of Kellie's mom's family. We saw Kellie's grandma, and celebrated her 98th birthday, along with Kellie's brothers and their families. We got the giant family photo at that point. As for Drama, if you were there you already know about it, and if you weren't there you don't need to know.

In August, another wedding in Utah, this time for Sister Hamm, another of Kellie's missionaries.

In early September, Chris participated in the Autonomous Vehicle Competition again. This time he formed a team with Jameson Richard, a friend who used to teach primary in our ward before his family moved to Ft Collins. We used the same robot hardware, but basically started over on writing the software, in order to help Jameson learn about embedded electronics. Chris's robot, Yukari, failed yet again to make the first turn. Maybe next year...

Also that month, Kellie's mom came out to visit and to see the open house for the Ft Collins Temple. We attended the dedication later in October -- between General Conference, Stake Conference, Regional Conference, and the Dedication, we barely had any normal days of church between October and Thanksgiving. We practically had to re-introduce ourselves to our primary class.

We went back to Disney World at the end of September, along with Chris's family. His brother Robert is in the Air Force, and got deployed to the other side of the world. The Disney World trip was our reunion/goodbye trip for him. It was Chris and Kellie, his brother Robert and sister Elisa, Robert's family, and Chris's parents -- A total of 9 people, of which 7 are adults. Herding adults is harder than herding cats, especially when none of them has authority to be the leader of the trip. We still had a good time, especially when Chris and Kellie snuck off for a date day. Once we got home, we saw a Lego Disney Castle that we simply had to get -- so we did. (If you can't tell, we really like Disney.) It was 758 steps, 4080 pieces, and took us two evenings to build. It now has the place of honor on the living room coffee table, displacing the former occupant, the Lego Star Destroyer that Chris got before he met Kellie.

In late October Kellie heard about her dad being in the hospital over Facebook. Don't do that, please contact your family directly. He turned out to be fine -- this is one of the times when you actually want to hear the phrase "just a migraine". He broke out of the hospital after only a couple of days, and went back to work on the addition on his house. It's looking good, as close to finished as it ever has since Chris and Kellie met. We went out to visit Kellie's parents for Thanksgiving, and we will be back there for Christmas.

Chris is still working at LASP. He is still working on Maven, which is still producing great science from Mars orbit. He also joined another project at the lab -- another Mars orbiter, but this time not a NASA project. This one is the Emirates Mars Mission Amal ('Hope' in Arabic). He is going to be working on the EXI camera, which will produce all the pretty pictures from this mission. The spacecraft is due to launch in July 2020, and arrive at Mars in February 2021, along with five other spacecraft. Kellie is trying to figure out how to get a trip to Dubai or Japan out of this. If Chris gets invited to a meeting in Dubai, we will buy Kellie a ticket just like for the Belgium.

Kellie is heavily involved in Lularoe -- she basically is an employee of Cindy Gohier, a friend from Oklahoma who moved to Colorado Springs. She gets paid in clothes. She also got addicted to pearls -- She found a person on Facebook who sells oysters with pearls in them, and opens them on a live stream and shows off the pearls inside. Kellie is in charge of the budget, so she knows exactly how much she can spend on her hobbies.

Diamond and Maya are still doing fine -- Diamond is still trying to get Maya to play together, and Maya is still thinking, what is that noise with legs?. Diamond is traveling all over the country, back to Oklahoma to her stepsisters Star and Coco, and will be flying back with Chris and Kellie to Oklahoma for Christmas.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Chris and Kellie

Check the extended version of this letter, with more pictures, on our web site, chrisandkellie.org