Christmas, 2007

(click on the picture to see a detailed view)

Dear Friends,

2007 seemed to pass quickly and peacefully for us. Once again, the weather did not cause a major event. Indeed it was quite tame, and for that we consider ourselves very fortunate. Here's a summary of our year in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

In April we spent a week in Michigan to visit Ellen's dad and step-mom, as well as her sister and her family. While there we experienced our first, ever "white Easter." Yes, it snowed the entire Easter weekend while there. We had a great time. In the summer, parents and kids went separate ways. Mark and Ellen spent a relaxing vacation on the beautiful island of Kauai, returning to the spot they had visited 10 years ago. They took in some wonderful Hawaiian scenery, some of which you can view here. Samuel, Lisa, and Sarah visited their grandmother in Scottsdale, AZ, for 12 days of happiness and bliss. There they were treated to all kinds of fun in the desert sun. This year we're spending Christmas with Mark's brothers and sister in Pensacola. It's a great time for all the families to be together.




Sarah, now seven years old, is in First Grade. She loves her school, teachers, and classmates. Sarah is on the chess team again and this year, following in her brother's footsteps, began tournament play. While she didn't win a trophy, she liked the experience and expects to continue with competition. Also, following her brother, Sarah has started piano lessons and has impressed us all with her progress. Next year we expect her to begin participating in the piano federation. Sarah is still very much interested in science. She's fascinated by magnets, and has discovered how to get an egg into a small-mouthed bottle. See it here. Sarah continues with her gymnastics classes and studio dance lessons. In her spare time she still does arts and crafts projects. This year she elected to have her birthday party hosted at a ceramics studio.

Lisa turned 16 this year, and we all know that means she has begun her automobile driving experience. At the conclusion of her Learners Permit period she tested and received her license to drive solo. Lisa's brother has passed on his 1992 Maxima for her personal use. Being that it has a manual transmission, Lisa had no choice but to learn how to drive it. Now she appreciates having a skill that most of her friends do not. This year Lisa received her Confirmation in the Jewish faith after weeks of preparation and hard work. She worked very hard along with 3 others to conduct a wonderful service. They composed a song and performed it for the congregation. Lisa is in her sophomore year of High School, and belongs to the marching band. The flute is her instrument and she's become very accomplished. She made the All-District Honor Band this year and is third chair in the High School's Concert band. Lisa also has started playing the violin. She's only been at it for about four months but is showing great progress. Lisa has recently picked up bowling. She has joined the bowling team at her school and has improved dramatically. Though her musical hobbies have kept her busy, she still has had time to continue her art projects. She has drawn and painted many works this year, and continues to show great aptitude. Here's one of her recent works.

Samuel, now 17, is a senior in high school and working hard on his college choice. He has narrowed the field to two: Purdue University and Texas A&M. At either school he'll be seeking a degree in Chemical Engineering. The receipt of scholarship money probably will be the deciding factor. Samuel's interest in engineering has inspired his high school senior project--programming a dynamic simulation of a distillation column in Microsoft Excel. Needless to say, he's having a lot of fun, and learning at the same time.

As advertised Samuel delivered his solo piano concert in February. The eleven-piece performance was well-attended and even made the local newspaper. Throughout the year Samuel has contributed articles to the Lake Charles American Press about his piano experience, chess competition, and his personal blog. Samuel's chess involvement did anything but decline as he continues to coach chess clubs from three schools and actively play in tournaments. This year, his rating reached a new level, surpassing the 1900 mark, putting him in the top one hundred 17-year-olds in the country. Last, but not least, Samuel's uncle gave him a 1995 Maxima which he is very proud of. You can see Samuel polishing it on any given day of the week.

Ellen continues playing super-mom, ensuring that all the children's lessons and practices are attended on schedule, as well as maintaining her job at a local toy retailer. She's still going to the Curves Center and remains heavily involved in the local Synagogue as one of the officers of the organization. She also socializes in the Lake Charles Newcomers Club.

In September, on the advice of her doctor Ellen underwent a total hysterectomy from which she has made a complete recovery. She's very happy with the results, and now wonders why she waited so long to have the operation.

Joseph and Anthony both still work in Houston. Last year, Joseph joined Lyondell as a Process Control Engineer at their Channelview plant. This year Anthony left his position at TAG and hired on with Lyondell for a Process Control Engineer position at the LaPorte plant. Both are very happy with their jobs. And both have taken up the hobby of radio-controlled helicopters. At age 27 they still show that competitive spirit! Early in the year, Joseph purchased a new home near Lake Houston, and in November announced his engagement to Jessica. Their wedding is set for July, 2008. We look forward to Jessica becoming a member of the Congiundi clan.

Mark, with more than nine years at Sasol North America, is within a year of early retirement eligibility. Of course, with Sarah in First Grade, that doesn't mean he'll retire, but it's nice to know it's always an option. He still works in Lake Charles and at other plant sites. In 2007 he made two more trips to the Sasol facility in South Africa, and likely will return to work on a startup of a new unit in the coming year. In February, Mark made a purchase of a 2006 BMW 330i. While this fulfilled a dream of years ago, it also improved his "fashion" status with Samuel and Lisa a notch or two.

Luke the cat is still with us, as are pets Lucy and Tidbit. You may recall that last year Lucy found her way to our front doorstep, then dropped four kittens on us a week later. We kept two of them, Eli and Tidbit. Sadly, Eli disappeared last February and we haven't seen him since. We believe he may have met his match in the form of a coyote. But now the three cats are best friends, competing for the best lap they can find or whoever will give them the most attention.

You can find this Christmas newsletter and all those from previous years. Just go to our Web Home Page and click on the Christmas tree near the bottom of the page. Please note our internet addresses below, as well as our street address. Please write (snail mail or email) or stop by for a visit if you're in the area. We hope you are all healthy and feeling lots of joy. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mark, Ellen, Anthony, Joseph, Samuel, Lisa, Sarah, and Luke, Lucy, Eli, and Tidbit the cats


Our mailing address is:

1212 Bayouwood Court

Lake Charles, LA 70605-3340


(337) 480-0625

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