Happy New Year — from all of us

And what a year it’s been.

Setting aside what happened in the travel industry and the recent unpleasantness with the Department of Homeland Security here’s how our 2009 went.

Our youngest daughter, Erysse, turned three in November. She’s a bubbly preschooler who loves to play with her friends, dress up like a princess and eat chocolate — which she calls “cholocolate.” True to her name, Erysse is beautiful, assertive and a little mischievous.

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Iden, who turns five next week, is going to be a kindergartner in 2010. He has lots of friends in preschool and likes to perform (as in, drama, acting, musicals). He also enjoys fighting with his older brother. By the way, thanks for the boxing gloves, Grandma! Iden is affable but assertive, like a good middle child.

Our oldest son, Aren, is seven years old and begins third grade this fall. More than anything else, he likes to play video games. He’s amazingly good at them. Aren is also an excellent reader and big brother to Erysse and Iden. He loves to perform, too. Maybe we should move to Hollywood?

We said good-bye to Max this year. He was mortally wounded in a catfight and passed away a few days later with us at his side. We adopted two Bengal kittens, Clio and Lia, named for the muses in Greek mythology. (Clio is is the muse of history and Lia, short for Thalia, is the muse of comedy.) They are welcome additions to our family.

Kari amazed us by finishing her masters degree in information systems management from the University of Central Florida with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. She completed her MBA from UCF last year (go Knights!), while also serving as the secretary for the Student Veterans Association chapter, singing for three bands and volunteering at St. Luke’s, where all three kids attend school. Talk about multitasking! Next semester she’ll be earning a certificate in technology ventures, and then plans to take a well-deserved break from school.

I had an eventful year, for all of you keeping track. The last quarter was the most interesting, by far. I became a columnist for the Washington Post travel section and started co-hosting a new travel show with Rudy Maxa called Rudy Maxa’s World with Christopher Elliott. The show is aired in close to 100 markets on Saturday morning, including XM and Armed Forces Radio.

I’ve also kept busy with this site and writing weekly columns for Tribune Media Services, MSNBC.com and National Geographic Traveler.

Here’s to a great — and hopefully subpoena-free — 2010.