Musselman Christmas Letters


You may want to scroll to the bottom and read oldest to newest. Interesting to see how the "story" progresses.

New Years Eve 2016
L-R Bob, Joey, Will, John, Bobby, Jen
Mary, Julie, Emma Cronin, Kate

The bible tells us many times that “Mary pondered all of these things in her heart.” What did she ponder?
  • Gabriel addressing her as “Hail, full of grace.” (Lk 1:26)
  • Elizabeth’s greeting “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Lk1:46)
  • Finding Jesus in the temple and He responds “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk 2:49)
  • Jesus’ words at Cana, “Woman, what have you to do with me?” (Jn 2:4 )
  • Jesus telling the crowds “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:35) and “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28)
  • And at the Cross, Jesus entrusting his mother to John saying “Woman, behold your son” and “Behold your mother.” (Jn 19:26-27)

Her entire life was spent pondering about the marvelous work God was doing in her life.
As Bob and I ponder 30 years of marriage this year, we praise God for all our blessings:

Bobby, 25, and Jen’s wedding anniversary. Jen is working in Tampa as a civil engineer while Bobby is mid-way through his third year of dental school at LECOM.

John, 22, graduating from FSU in April in biochemistry, packing up everything he owns in his truck and moving to Milwaukee in August to work in the lab at Miller-Coors. What is all that white stuff piling up?

Joey, 19, joining the circus at FSU, juggling balls, pins and all his class work as a Computer Science Major, and working as a student manager at the Student Union.

Will,17, persevering through the football season and through Junior Year of International Baccalaureate (IB) program at St. Pete High, while volunteering with Interact and getting his first job at Chick-fil-a.

Mary, 15, now a freshman in IB, joining the Swim Team, Ukulele club, and Math Honor Society while making lots of new friends and making cool movies to remember it all. Receiving her driver’s permit December 30 and taking the name Therese when she is confirmed January 15, 2017 with Joey as her sponsor.

Katie, 12, learning lots in the kitchen with Bob, continuing her love of reading and art and stepping out to play 6th grade tennis, basketball and bowling at St. Raphael’s.

Bob, growing in wisdom and fortitude as he runs Admiral C&B propeller into the 28th year. Taking on new challenges as President of the Football booster board and challenging me to keep up with him with our new hobby/exercise program: riding bikes.

And me, humbled to be working at the Augustine Institute, throughout the Year of Mercy and into 2017, the 100th Anniversary of the Apparitions of Fatima and the 100th Anniversary of the Militia Immaculata as the Director of Regional Advocates and Emissaries.

Let’s all imitate Our Lady more and more in pondering the blessings we have received from Our Lord.

Julie Musselman
St. Petersburg, FL
New Years Eve 2016

Christmas 2015
The Musselmans L to R: Jen, Bobby, Julie, Bob, Kate, Mary, John. Back Row: Will, Joey
On December 19, 2015  Bobby married Jennifer Rose Palacios at St. Martha Catholic Church in Sarasota. A reception followed with family and friends feasting at the Powell Crosley Mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay.  We are so happy to have Jen as a part of the family.  She and Bobby will live nearby in Riverview, FL.  Jen will commute to work as a civil engineer in downtown Tampa, while Bobby will drive south to finish his second year of dental school at LECOM in Bradenton.  

John, 21, a senior at FSU, was the best man.  He will graduate in the spring with a degree in biochemistry and hopes to attend medical next fall.  In Tallahassee he is also working at Proof Brewing Co., bar tending in the tasting room and learning a bit about the chemistry and manufacture of his favorite beverage.

Fellow groomsman Joey, 18, ran off to join the circus.  Sort of.  He attends FSU with John and he parlayed his juggling skills into a position in the famous FSU Flying High Circus.  He will be begin performing in the spring.  Joey is majoring in computer science.

Will, 16, was the tallest groomsman at nearly 6’4”, which also precipitated his movement in the fall from marching band to football tight end (probably the first time that happened at St. Pete High).  Will is doing well in the International Baccalaureate program and loves to shoot skeet. He will get his driver’s license in January.

Mary, 14, unfortunately for dad, got a lot of good ideas from Bobby and Jen’s wedding (apparently food by Chick Fil A and the reception at parish center is now off the table for her wedding day.)  Mary will graduate 8th grade in May and will follow her brothers into the IB program at St. Pete High next fall.  She loves to read and if playing basketball and volleyball.

Kate, 11, is in fifth grade at St. Raphael.  She continues to be her mother’s best buddy but is also an excellent sous chef in the kitchen for her dad.  She is happy to have Jen as another big sister. 

September 1, Julie transitioned from regional manager for Lighthouse Catholic Media to Program Coordinator for Fr. Michael Gaitley’s Hearts Afire Parish-based Programs (HAPP).  Then November 19, Lighthouse merged with the Augustine Institute in Denver.  So Julie will be travelling a bit to Denver and the HAPP home base of Stockbridge, Mass., spreading the Gospel and doing what she loves. 

Our propeller business, thanks to low gas prices and low tides, did well in 2015. 
We wish all our friends and family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Bob Musselman                                                      
St. Petersburg, FL                                                            
December 2015 
Christmas 2014

The Musselman family added another member in 2014--and it's a girl!  Though it's not what you're thinking.
Jen Palacios and Bobby

Bobby and Jen Palacios became engaged in May and will be married December 19, 2015.  It was a big year for Bobby and Jen--he graduated from FSU and started dentistry school at LECOM in Bradenton.  Jen graduated the University of Virginia and is working as a civil engineer in Orlando.

Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate  Dunnellon, FL November 2014

John continues at Florida State as a junior, studying biochemistry and planning to attend medical school.  John has cooked a pork butt for every FSU football game since their 29-game win streak began.  Rest assured we will be eating pork butt--and maybe some roast duck--on New Year's Day.  Go Noles!

Joey just finished his senior high school football season, during which he started every game at tight end on a team that went to the state playoffs.  He'll graduate from St. Pete High in June and will attend FSU and study accounting--or engineering.  Not sure yet.  He likes math.
Friday nights this fall were doubly fun because Will, a freshman at St. Pete High, played baritone in the marching band at St. Pete High football games.  After being the 'baby" of our boys, he is enjoying now being the tallest Mussel-MAN at 6'2" and still growing.

Mary is becoming a beautiful young lady, in seventh grade at St. Raphael school and an official  teenager on December 30. She is having fun at her first year of cotillion and playing basketball and volleyball (though she recently broke both wrists in a basketball fall).  She has a very sweet heart and loves to read. 

Katie just turned 10 and she's in fourth grade at St. Raphael.  An artsy whirlwind, Kate was voted most likely to be a good mom.  She's my shadow in the kitchen and Julie's shadow in the rest of the house.  That's a pretty good combination.

We wish all our friends and family blessings during this Christmas season, and a Happy New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Kate, Mary--and Jen.

St. Petersburg 2014

Christmas Day 2013~ St. Raphael Catholic Church


Christmas 2012


Joey, Mary, Kate, Santa, John, Bobby and Will

This year we got our play room closet back.

Our kids have always shared a room with their closest-in-age sibling: Bobby roomed with John; Joey with Will; and Mary with Kate. 

About four years ago, after Joey and Will had one of those knock down/drag out fights only brothers have, Joey lugged his mattress from their shared room into a large closet stuffed with toys and games and the air handler. He cleared off some space on a shelf for his meager belongings and he declared it to be his room. 



It wasn’t a bad life.  The closet has its own AC vent and no windows, so it’s cool and dark. We even ran a cable wire so that Joey could have his own TV, and the router’s in there so the Wi-Fi is excellent.   Peace was in our house, at least between Joey and Will.



In August John went off to Florida State University, where he’s studying chemistry.  Of course he’s bunking with his brother Bobby, a junior, and both are studying science and hoping for medical careers. So we had an empty room.  And now we have an empty closet.



In his “new” room, Joey stretches out his 6’1” linebacker frame on a new mattress.  He’s a sophomore at St. Petersburg High School in the International Baccalaureate program, and was named most improved defensive player on the JV football team.  



Will, a  7th grader, got a second bed back in his room.  Like his oldest brothers he seems to favor science, golf and fishing and looks after two pet chinchillas, Mercy and Roxy. Mary, 5th grade and Kate, 2nd grade, immediately had their eyes on that empty closet.  They set up house with Barbies and American Girl dolls that used to take over our dining room.



So our house seems a little empty this year. Julie's been answering the question "How are things?" by answering, "We're down to four."



This past Friday night the college boys returned for the Christmas holidays, and Sunday morning, after 20 eggs, 1 loaf of bread, 2 pounds of bacon, 2 packages of hash browns, 1 quart of Orange Juice and a pot of coffee, the joy of being together all under one roof was amazing.



Our Lord was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. He was a man of whom was written "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Matt. 8:20)  Our space comes and goes. The most important thing is to fill it with life.  May we welcome Our Lord and all those who enter our lives this Christmas. 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Musselman family. 
  Bob, Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate December 2012


Christmas 2011



“He went with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them, and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”  (Luke 2:51-52)



I

n 2011 Julie and I celebrated 25 years of marriage and 20 years as parents.  Looking back it’s amazing how much we’ve changed, both as husband and wife and parents.  And it’s been another year of learning little lessons about life from our kids.



With Bobby, it’s been all about letting go and trust.  He’s a sophomore at Florida State University now, living in a dingy house near the football stadium with two friends and a pit bull.  We are there for him when he needs us, but those times are fewer and farther between.  He makes good decisions and he’s becoming a fine young man.



John has taught us the value of continuing to dream.  The kid who willed himself to  Eagle Scout, who works at a pizza joint to make spending money, who humbly captained a group of younger (and better) high school golfers to the state championship tournament, truly can accomplish anything he sets his mind to.  He’ll go to college next year, probably to FSU with Bobby, and the sky’s the limit for him.



Joey tells us to work hard with a spirit of joy.  This year he played his first year of real football as a freshman, grinding through summer conditioning, then two-a-days in the Florida sun, then the junior varsity season.  By the end he was the starting middle linebacker.  All this he did, and continues to do in the challenging International Baccalaureate program, with joy and a smile.  In every sense he is fun to watch.



Will, in sixth grade, reminds us that kids must play.  Will plays baseball and basketball, wants to play golf, has his eye on football and just might be the best ping pong player in the house.  And of course he plays video games like all the other 12 year olds.  Kids want to have fun; parents need to get down on the ground and play with them.



Mary makes us remember that a mother must be, above all, present.  Fourth grade can be a difficult year for a little girl:  Lots of changes and petty girl stuff starting.  A mother who talks to her, reads to her, prays with her, hugs her and lets her cry, that’s what a little girl needs as she journeys from childhood to the teen years. 



And first-grader Kate is a living example of the importance of saying “yes,” which truly exemplifies the spirit of generosity and humility that parents must practice every day.  “No” is so much easier at the end of a long day, or when “yes” means a sacrifice of time or treasure.  And as the sixth child, I’m sure Kate is happy that we said “yes” to her.  She lives life like she’s simply happy to be here.  Do we?



Here’s hoping and praying that 2012 is a year of becoming better at our vocations, whatever God calls us to be.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.



Bob Musselman

Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary, Kate. 

St. Petersburg, FL 2011


Christmas 2010

One went to college.  One went to kindergarten.
That’s the way it was around the Musselman house in 2010.  A year of changes, but familiar feelings that seemed like déjà vu all over again.  Though the first day of kindergarten, and opening day at Little League, sure feel different when you’re 46, not 33.

Bobby, 19, went off to Florida State University, majoring in Chemical Sciences (I think).  We haven’t heard much, but assume he’s doing ok—if you hear from him, let us know what he says.  Over Christmas we hope to get caught up.

Kate, 6, started kindergarten.  She’s a real girly girl, much to Julie’s chagrin and secret pleasure.  Mary, almost 9, is in third grade.  She likes to get up early—like —and walk with Julie.  It’s a chance for her to get some precious alone time with her mother—“Mommy, can we skip the Rosary and just talk?”

John, 16 and a junior, continues to be our family’s maintenance man along with getting good grades in the challenging IB program at St. Petersburg High, being active in service clubs and lettering in golf.  He’s also an excellent cook—his Alfredo sauce is awesome.

Joey, 13, is in eighth grade and blessed with a big social network and a million dollar smile.  He’s getting tall like his older brothers and hopes to graduate from flag football to high school football next year.

Will, 11, speaking of football, is the biggest kid in fifth grade, but his love is baseball.  He rooted the Tampa Bay Rays all the way to the playoffs this year and anchors his little league team at first base.

It’s been a blessed year, in that we’ve gotten through it.  All the good mentioned above, and much more in our hearts, trumps all the bad and ugly of 2010.  We’re looking forward to the joys and sorrows of 2011 and beyond, with faith and trust that God will give us the grace to handle anything that comes our way.

A blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.
Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2009

I’ve been thinking hard about a theme or thought about 2009. “Thank you” keeps coming to my mind. And so I think I’ll write about the things I’m thankful for.

Christmas 2009
Thank you to the teachers and staff of St. Petersburg High School, where Bobby and John continue to get a great education in the IB program. Thanks to Mr. Halstead the golf coach, who guided them and their team to their first district title in a long time. Bobby’s been accepted to Florida State University and he’ll likely be heading there--than you, God, for that.

Thank you to the teachers and staff of the School of the Immaculata, school home to Joey, Will, Mary and Kate. Thanks especially to Miss Matz, who provides an exceptional flutophone and strings program for the kids. Who knew that Joey would someday play the violin and cello? Thanks to the school for letting us borrow chinchilla Dusty—an experience that finally convinced Julie to accept a permanent furry friend into our home, a similar grey chinchilla named Musty. (Dusty? Musselman? Get it?) Could a dog be far behind?

Thank you, especially, to Julie, who has worked hard all year to help our family get through these difficult economic times. In addition to doing all the book keeping for our business, she’s been working a couple days a week for a small accounting firm. In her spare time (aside from keeping house, running car pools, making dinners and helping with homework,) she’s become one of the leading reps and division managers for Lighthouse Catholic Media.

Thanks to my family—my mom, Mary Ann, who is so generous with everything she has, and our sisters and in-laws, Julie’s dad, Tom, who have all helped us in so many ways that it’s hard to even count them all.

For many of us, 2009 was a tough year. Many of us are learning to do without the stuff we used to take for granted, and in some cases the people we thought we’d have around a lot longer.

But aren’t you more thankful now than you ever have been? I know I am. I guess it’s true that you never know what you have until it’s gone. My resolution for 2010 is to be thankful for every precious moment that God grants me, and for every wonderful person He places in my path. Today is truly a gift—that is why they call it the present.

Thanks to you, for whatever part you’ve played in our wonderful life.

We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a blessed, happy and prosperous New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2008

At our business I usually buy a few hundred calendars each year to give out to customers.  It’s a cheap gift that keeps our name on the wall for 12 months.

This year, the calendar sales lady started bothering me in July and I kept putting her off, unsure if we’d have enough money to spend on calendars.  Finally she got me on the phone in October and was pushing hard for an order.  Exasperated, I said, “Quit bothering me.  I’m not even convinced there’s going to be a 2009!”

Eventually I placed a small order and our customers snapped up every one.  Seems nobody’s giving out calendars this year.  I don’t think we got one from our vendors, and we’re usually inundated.  The one place that has plenty of calendars, however, is
our church, St. Raphael.

I think the calendars symbolize hope.  2008 was rough for most of us.  What’s going to happen in 2009?  It’s no coincidence that as companies cut back, our church hasn’t.  At Christmas, in our faith, we can always find hope.

To find hope in our family we need look no farther than our children.  Bobby, 17, continues to do well in school and golf and, despite Julie’s tears, I’m starting to count down the days until he heads off to college.  John, 14-1/2, earned the rank of Eagle Scout and is following in Bobby’s footsteps in golf and in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School.  The rigorous IB keeps them both busy.

Joey, 11, and Will, 9, are growing into fine young boys.  Both played fall baseball and love animals.  They are tending to the school’s chinchilla, Dusty, over Christmas break.  Julie will allow only pets on loan in our home.

We’re trying to keep Mary, 7 on Dec. 30, young while we can, but it’s hard to stem
the tide of Hannah Montana and High School Musical oozing through every crack.  She reads a lot with Julie and enjoys American Girl dolls, Build-A-Bear and Webkinz.    Kate, 4, is hope incarnate.  She is always happy, bright eyed and willing to try new things.  I don’t know what we’d do without her.

Here’s hoping that 2009 is the year we all turn off the TV and the internet, quit reading the news, go back to church, and get back to basics.  Let’s renew ourselves in the hope and good news that comes from our Savior each Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours.
Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2007 (He said)

I was talking to the guy I buy my boiled peanuts from recently (you might remember him from an earlier Christmas letter), complaining about this and that and a particular situation.  Gary the peanut man suggested that I listen to God—He’ll tell me what to do.  When I said I was thinking about selling it all and moving to the country, he looked at me funny and said, “God will not tell you to do something stupid.”

So what’s God trying to tell me this year?  2007 was not particularly pleasant.  My dad died at age 66 after his long battle with cancer.  Business has been not so good.  I’m starting to feel physically like a 43-year-old father of six. 

Maybe God’s saying that it’s time to grow up.  My dad died peacefully, perhaps knowing that he’d properly prepared me and my sisters for the long life ahead of us.  Maybe it’s time to start being a better husband, father and provider.

Maybe God’s saying enough already with the stuff.  Maybe happiness really comes from simplicity, not from big boy toys.  Maybe it’s time to start being a better steward with the gifts He’s given me.

Maybe it’s time to start taking better care of myself.  Am I really treating my body like a Temple of the Holy Spirit?  Don’t I want to be able to dance at my daughters’ weddings (without a walker)?

Sometimes it’s hard to hear God over the din in our household.  Bobby, 16, got his driver’s license and motors whenever and where ever he can.  He continues to play lots of golf and study hard in the International Baccalaureate program in St. Petersburg High School.  John, 13, is finishing up eighth grade and his Eagle Scout project and enjoys golf and basketball.

Joey, 10, and Will, 8, spend most of their time begging for pets (Julie won’t allow it).  They both love to toss the football around.  Currently they are tending to Dusty, the School of the Immaculata chinchilla, at our home for the Christmas break. 

Mary turns 6 on Dec. 30 and she continues to talk and become more beautiful each day.  Kate, 3, was a late talker but, boy, is she making up for lost time.  Mary is happy to finally have a “talking friend.”

Whatever God is trying to say to you this Christmas season, we pray you’ll be able to hear it.  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate
Christmas 2007
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2007 (She said)

Mary, who turns 6 on Dec. 30,  had a solo in the school Christmas musical this year. All the children dressed up as the animals of the stable in Bethlehem. Each animal sang about their part in the birth of Christ. Mary was the donkey. She sang “I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown, I carried His mother up hill and down, I carried her safely to Bethlehem town, I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown.”  It was short and very sweet.

As a mother of a daughter, I had my first glimpse of my own interests being shared by my daughter. I loved to sing as kid. I was in the church choir. It was a precious moment for me to see her on stage. But the song itself was precious, as it gave me a lot to think about.

A month ago, the teachers sent home a CD so the children could listen to the music and learn their parts. Mary played the donkey song a lot. Kate, 3, who is a late talker, can sing it by heart. The words and lyrics of Mary’s donkey song are stuck in my mind. So I have now thought a lot about donkeys. I have thought a lot about the privilege of being the donkey that carried our Lady to Bethlehem. I have thought about the fact that the donkey only did the thing he could do. He didn’t worry about how many things there are to do and he didn’t try to do more than he could do. He did his job “up hill and down.” He did it for our Lady and for the Christ child.

And I have thought a lot about how just like the donkey, the ordinary work we do each day we should do for Christ. This is a good thought when you are doing laundry at or . It is a good thought when you are cleaning the kitchen. And it is a good thought for Bob and me as we get the privilege of watching these children grow and develop the gifts and talents that God has given them.

Bobby, 16, got his driver’s license in November and motors whenever and where ever he can.  He continues to play lots of golf and study hard in the International Baccalaureate program in St. Petersburg High School.  John, 13, is in eighth grade at Immaculata and is working on his Eagle Scout project, an outdoor study area for his school. He enjoys golf and basketball.

Joey, 10, and Will, 8, love to toss the football around and Joey is still the best tree climber. They are altar servers at school masses and on Sundays. They spend most of their time begging for pets.  I have found a great solution, I call “borrow a pet”. Currently they are tending to “Dusty”, the school chinchilla, at our home for the Christmas break. 

I hope this advent, we all think more about the donkey and doing the ordinary things with extraordinary love.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Julie Musselman
Bob, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary and Kate
St. Petersburg, FL



New Year's Letter January 1, 2007

“Behold, I make all things new.”  Rev 21:5

Happy New Year! Three drafts later, we still don’t have a Christmas letter. So I thought we would try something new—a Happy New Year letter.

In Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, Jesus says to his mother while carrying the cross to Calvary, “Behold, I make all things new.”   It is an interesting insertion of a verse from the book of Revelation.  The Gospels don’t record Christ saying this on the Via Delarosa. But in His gory, bloody, dying body He is, indeed, making all things new.

I have felt God whispering these same words to me over the last six months since my mother died of spinal cancer on June 12.  On the face, it seemed like so many things ended with her life.  There would be no new photos with mom in them, no new stories that we would share.  But with the eyes of faith, I catch glimpse that God is, in fact, making all things new.

Without my mom, we started new traditions: Thanksgiving in Dunnellon with neighbors and family; Christmas Eve dinner at our house after the Vigil Mass.

Without mom’s help around the house and with the kids, I have found new ways to get laundry done (early mornings and late nights) and new ways to stay home more and spend time with my children.  Without mom to talk to and get advice from, I have found new ways to pray.

With the eyes of faith, I am pondering more of the eternal and trying to set aside some of the earthly cares.  I think about the time and place where death cannot go, where all things are new.

And now, we have a new year.  Time to renew ourselves, our families, and our friendships.

Bobby, 15, started a new school, the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School, in August, and made a new team, the Green Devils golf team.  He has reached new heights (6’2”) and found many new challenges (Biology, Spanish, Algebra II).

John, 12-1/2 is enjoying his new role as our oldest child at the School of the Immaculata.  Last week he learned a new way to fix a hole in the garbage disposal—strapping a rubber fishing jig to it—as he followed Bob around helping and fixing stuff around the house.  Joey, 9, is playing on a new basketball team, with a new coach—Bob.  Will, 7 is learning lots of new things about the faith as he prepares for First Holy Communion May 6. 

Mary has just shown us a new way to have a birthday party—the girlie way.  We had 10 little ladies over for her 5th birthday “tea party” with dress-ups last weekend. And Kate has learned all the new words a 2 year old should know: “I do”, “Mine” and “No, No, No.”

Bob and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary June 6.  I am amazed that every day I see new and more ways to fall in love with him again and again.

And so, I wish you all a Happy NEW Year.  May you embrace the changes ahead and look forward to being renewed.

Julie Musselman                          
St. Petersburg, FL                                           
January 2007

Christmas 2006

Joey, our nine-year old, recently crashed my prized jacked-up, redneck golf cart into a tree.  He and his passengers were unhurt, but the cart suffered significant but repairable damage.

I didn’t witness the crash and learned about it from his brother, John (who was tailing him on a dirt bike.  Hmm.)  So I had some time to think about my reaction.  I knew this could be a watershed moment for Joey.  One wrong word and I might provide the spark for a CNN-style father-hating murderous rampage someday.  I said a silent prayer for wisdom.

I found Joey, cowering and crying, in the loft of our storage barn.  I gave him a hug and told him, “I love you more than I’ll ever love that old golf cart.”  Then we talked about the new rules for golf cart driving and what we’d have to do to make it right.

Both Joey and I learned a lot that day.  I learned that the minimum age for driving a golf cart around our property should be more like 12.  I hope Joey learned that a father’s love can be tough and compassionate at the same time.  And with luck that lesson will be passed to his own son someday, just like it was passed down from my father.

Christmas is a great time to think about a father’s love.  Our Heavenly Father’s love was so great for us that he sent his son to share in our human sufferings.  Do we emulate God’s love in the way we deal with our children?  Do we die to ourselves each day for their well being?  Kids learn to be parents by watching their own. 

Our family continues to do well.  Bobby, 15, is a 6’2” freshman in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School.  He was the #2 man on his high school golf team, which qualified for the state regional tournament. 

John, 12, Joey, 9, Will, 7, and Mary, 5 on Dec. 30, attend the School of the Immaculata. John is progressing in rank as a Boy Scout, Joey is into Tae Kwon Do, and both are playing basketball right now.  Will will make his First Holy Communion ahead of schedule in May, and looks like he might end up being the biggest and smartest one yet. 

Mary still talks a mile a minute and is introducing Julie to all the girly activities she missed raising four boys.  Kate, 2, is still tiny for her age and doesn’t talk much—except for “I do”, “Mine” and “No, No, No.”  She is currently sporting a pink cast on her leg, courtesy of a playground accident.

Please have a safe, blessed and holy Christmas season, and a happy New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Mary and Kate
St. Petersburg, FL


Christmas 2005

I buy my boiled peanuts—Cajun style—from a guy named Gary along U.S. 41 in Dunnellon, Florida 

Recently, Gary and I were talking about the weather and his starring role in the upcoming Dunnellon Santa parade when I mentioned that I had six kids.  “You must really love your wife,” said Gary, noting that he had six dogs and one child and inviting me to draw my own conclusions about his own affections.  

That was one of the nicest (let alone printable) things anyone has ever said to me about having a large family.  Thinking more about it, his observation shocked me—I mean, these days, what do kids and love have in common?  Isn’t the world’s message that it’s okay, even preferable, to have love and avoid having children?

Christmas is about a child—Jesus Christ—and how that child was God’s ultimate gift to mankind, a direct result of His love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John ).  Without love, there would be no Christ child and there would be no Christmas.

For that reason, every child is holy.  Every birth is like Christmas and a cause for rejoicing, no matter the circumstances (even a lonely birth in a dirty stable).   That’s one of the many messages of Christmas and the one I’m thinking about most this year, thanks to my very wise peanut man.

Our family is well and happy and healthy.  Four Musselman kids are now attending The School of the Immaculata, a small Catholic school in St. Petersburg.  Bobby, 14, plays a lot of golf and is getting ready for high school next year.  John, 11-1/2, is busy with basketball and Boy Scouts and is my best little helper.  Joey, 8, is catching up with the big boys in sports.  He and Will, 6, are very into action imagination games and usually end up tumbling like puppies.  Will is doing very well in kindergarten.

Mary, 4 on December 30, is proving that decorating and other girly pursuits are not learned (Julie’s okay with that statement).  She still talks and talks and talks.  Katie turned 1 on Thanksgiving Day.  Though she weighed less than the turkey we ate, she is healthy and petite and is beginning to walk as you read this.

Our family wishes yours a Merry Christmas and all God’s blessings during the coming year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary, Katie
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas Eve 2004

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent was about how Joseph, discovering that Mary was pregnant before they lived together, decided to divorce her quietly. In a dream, God told Joseph that the child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit and that Joseph should take Mary into his home and name the child Jesus.

In his homily, our priest said Joseph’s first reaction was not wrong--it was actually quite noble, since he could have exposed Mary to the law. His ultimate action, however, was, extraordinary. And it was only possible because God got involved.

Our priest’s point was that we all do extraordinary things when we need to, stuff we could never imagine ourselves doing. Coping with life after the death of a loved one, or caring for someone who’s sick. Building a successful career from nothing or surviving financial difficulties. And the strength to do these things comes from God, who promised to be with us always, even in our most challenging moments.

Which is a great segue into life at the Musselman house, where we are still celebrating the birth of child number six, Katherine Ann, who was born Nov. 24. Katie and Julie are fine and life is returning to what passes for normal around here.

Normal means that Bobby, 13 is playing a lot of golf and looking more like a teenager every day--though he now eats salad. John, 10, is busy with basketball and Boy Scouts. Joey, 7,  likes soccer, Tae Kwon Do and computers. All the boys are doing well at our new school, The School of the Immaculata, including Will, 5, who is getting extra special kindergarten attention in a class with two other kids and two guinea pigs.

Mary Jean, 3 on December 30, deserves her own paragraph. She talks and talks and talks. At the end of the day, an exasperated Julie will say to Mary, “Honey, we’ve said all our words.” Mary was hugging and cuddling her baby sister hours after she was born.

How do we deal with all this, you and everybody else asks? It’s God, I was reminded at Mass this past weekend. Julie and I were the ones who wanted all references to having children deleted from our wedding Mass. Now we have six kids.  It’s God’s little joke, but at least He’s giving us the strength and wisdom to keep it all together, most of the time. And the grace to say “yes,” like Joseph did, to get us to this point.

We wish all our friends and family another year of joy and happiness, and the grace to handle whatever challenges may come your way.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will, Mary Jean and Katie
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2003

Mary Jean always wears a bow in her hair.  Julie requires it and Mary endures it—except when Mary rips it from her hair and chucks it, pouting, “no bow!”

I’ve always assumed that the bow helps Julie tell Mary apart from our four boys.  It gets a little confusing around here sometimes.The other night, however, I had a revelation. Mary wears a bow because she is a gift.

Mary has been a reminder that children are gifts from God. We must endeavor every day to enjoy them. Some days it takes little effort to see grace among the grief.

Bobby, 12, has entered the world of middle school. That means harder homework and the first signs of teenage “attitude”. But he is also a doting big brother, truly caring for the little kids.  And he can beat his old man on the golf course.

John, 9, is dad’s shadow. He knows where all the tools are and wants to know how they work. He hung all the Christmas lighthouse this year. Golf and basketball are his sports.

All Joey, 6, wants for Christmas is his two front teeth. He lost both just after Thanksgiving. He’s in first grade, a great reader and our first Chess Club participant.

Will, 4, remains a piece of work. After three kids, you’d think you’ve seen and heard it all. Will disproves that pretty much every day. This week he wants to be a cowboy.

And Mary Jean, who turns 2 on December 30, is all joy. She’s talking a little now, loves doggies (“gagas”) and can quote Santa (“ho, ho, ho.”)

So in 2003, we Musselmans learned a little more to savor and cherish the little things. And the big things, too.  Like friendships, our parents, our faith. We lost a couple of friends and a cousin this year, and we cherish our memories of them. Please know that we are thinking of you this Christmas season.

Wishing all our friends and family a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will and Mary Jean
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 2002


This will be our first Mary Christmas.


Sorry, I couldn't resist that dumb play on words. But things really are different with a little girl in the house.


Santa barely beat Mary Jean a year ago. She will celebrate her first birthday on December 30 pretty close to the North Pole—we’ll be in Vermont for a little winter holiday.


Lots of people ask us what it’s like to have a girl after having four boys. On the surface it seems the same. She plays with the same broken trucks and toys passed down by Bobby, 11 and John, 8. She’s starting to tumble and giggle with her closer siblings, Joey 5 and Will, 3.


But we’ve never had one sit quietly turning the pages on one of those baby-proof books-right side up, even. There have been a couple of baby doll sightings. And what’s up with all this pink?


Julie wasn’t sure about the whole girl thing. But now there’s obviously something very special going on between those two. In their eyes, especially in those baby blues, you can see that special mother-daughter tenderness. Julie loves her boys; she adores her baby girl.


For me, the number of girls who have me wrapped around their little fingers has now doubled. Wish me luck.


We Musselmans are enjoying the big family experience, though the demanding daily routine is draining in a lot of ways. Getter three out the door and keeping two happy each school day morning. Driving a giant gas sucker—not because you want to, but because you have to. Thinking about college times five. Let’s just say I still use a hair dryer, but I really don’t need to.


But we’re truly happy and because we know that we have been blessed with a very special gift: Five beautiful children and the courage, faith and peace that it will all work out because God wants it this way.


We can’t imagine Christmas without Mary Jean.


Wishing all our friends and family a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year.


Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey, Will and Mary Jean
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas 1999

This one came in the middle of the night.

We were fortunate that our first three boys were born at reasonable hours: Bobby, 3:01 p.m.; John, 5 p.m.; and Joey, 8:21 p.m.

William James Musselman was born at 3:26 a.m!  Julie awoke at 1 a.m. with labor pains, and we hurried to the hospital an hour later. By 7 a.m., with mom and Will resting fine, I was home getting the big kids ready for school with my parents, who also got an early-morning wake up call.

Those who know me well know that I’m not a morning person. Few things, in my mind, warrant rising before 7 a.m., and having babies has never been one of them.

But those who saw me that morning, after Mass and at school and at work, say I was beaming. Those who know me well know that I seldom “beam.” Never before noon.

We so often dwell on the bad things that happen in the middle of the night. Dogs barking, Sirens, wailing, Kids crying, The ringing phone that could ruin your day or change your life or simply be a wrong number.

But good things happen too. Like gentle love nudges and falling rain. And the real peace that comes after the whole world has booted down.

And didn’t Christmas start in the middle of the night? “It came upon a midnight clear,” didn’t it? Is it coincidence that God sent us His Son when the earth was quiet and dreamy? Would the shepherds have noticed if it “came upon a hot, busy afternoon?”

I still don’t like mornings, but my list of things that are worth doing before noon has grown by one. Thanks to Will.

The Musselman family wishes all our friends and family a blessed Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Bob Musselman
Julie, Bobby, John, Joey and Will
St. Petersburg, FL

Christmas Card 1986

Christmas time1982 letter from Julie's grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Kavanaugh Jr. to his son, Julie's uncle, Bill Kavanaugh of Dallas TX.

Tom Kavanaugh /4209 Barth Ln/Dayton OH 45429  12 30 82

Dear Bill,

We missed you and we we were all glad to talk to you. It was a lovely Christmas. To recite: Helen had Santa Claus and a lovely buffet Christmas eve. (The Met was busy and Mother promises to get your ties for me.) Christmas was perfect (we had gone to Mass 5 pm Friday to cover the Holy Day) Mother was here at noon and had the full dinner ready and all set up by 7 pm. 21 pound turkey and we have one-third of it left. Mother made dry dressing Sis made the oyster dressing. Sweet potatoes candied, cauliflower plus cranberry sauce and a braided bread made by Jean. Topped off by Santa Claus ice cream squares. One thing was better than another, I had a second turkey and stuffing and gravy dinner Sunday and two slices of gravy toast Tuesday, and did not make a dent in the leftovers.

Sis had a lovely family party buffet Monday, Treva's husband had made a cheeseball of Philadelphia cream cheese, onions and chipped beef that I gorged. Mother made tasty hot sauce meatballs. We had small rolls, ham and cheese, plenty of everything, all good.

Very similar buffet Wednesday when Sis had eight neighboring couples in. And they are all good fun mixed well, each having interesting stories and news to exchange.

So have a wonderful New Year to you Bill, you have my love and my prayers,

Always,

Dad

Note:
"Mother" is his wife, Virginia Sucher Kavanaugh
"Sis" is his sister-in-law, Frances Louise Sucher
Helen is his daughter-in-law Helen Kavanaugh (Jones)
Jean is his daughter-in-law, my mother, Jean Kavanaugh
Treva is their housekeeper