Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Belated Christmas Letter

I had every intention of getting this posted before Christmas but I guess better late than never. Besides I seem to remember a little cliché about good intentions and their use as an asphalt substitute, but I digress.

2008 was so busy for us that I don’t quite no where to start. So as the kids say I’ll line things up alphabetically by height.

Eve, AKA Evey-bug, Bugger Chugs, Evil Livia, Evey, Chuggers has had a good year. She’s enjoying Elementary school quite a lot. She’s still struggling with learning to read but she keeps trying and I’m not the least bit worried that she’ll get the hang of it. She has become quite the little comic. We all enjoy her zany sense of humor complete with 70s pop culture, British sci-fi, and Monty Python references. I’m not sure anybody outside our family understands her silliness but we think she’s a hoot. Lately she has really enjoyed helping Noah work on his electronics projects and playing with her new K-9 robot. Her dream job for when she grows up is to be a Dalak. Like I said, she’s a nutter that one.

Noah has totally licked the reading struggles he had a few years ago. Every night he reads out loud to us for at least 40 minutes. His homework only requires him to read for 20 minute, but since he stops every 30 seconds and asks, “Mom, How long have I been reading?” we deduct this Q&A time from his total. Noah’s struggling a little bit with school. Not with the material but with the procedures and his organizational skills. The kid is brilliant, but I guess genius comes with its own baggage. Since he forgets to turn in assignments that he has completed I don’t think his teacher quite realizes how smart he really is. We’re working on this with him.

Noah enjoys making robots. Frequently the robots are made of pop bottles, cardboard, cans and copious amounts of scotch tape. He then labels all the parts with a sharpie. Last week I was chastised for throwing away a “laser rifle”. As it turns out I had thrown a 2 liter bottle with a little scotch tape on it into the recycle bin. On the side of the bottle in sharpie it was clearly labeled “laser rifle”. How silly of me to think it was an empty soda bottle. In an attempt to steer his efforts to a more productive path we got him a Radio Shack electronics lab for Christmas. It’s a little over his head, but not much. We started at the beginning and we’ve been doing all of the projects together. He really likes the noisy ones. Big surprise. He’s been doing a really good job of identifying and keeping all of the resisters and capacitors organized and in the right bags. Hopefully this one item will help him with his science fix as well has help improve his organizational ability and his fine motor skills. I’ll keep everybody posted on the status of our aspiring Jimmy Neutron.

As Victoria stated in her blog recently we have coined a new phrase around our house. The phrase is “being Rachel”. This girl has no interest at all in sports or television. Every spare moment she finds she is reading a book or writing a story. She discovered the whole Twilight series around Thanksgiving and has since read every one of the novels at least once and some multiple times. Thanks to a Dr. Who episode that featured her as a character she has recently discovered Agatha Christie. The phrase “being Rachel” has taken such acceptance in the house that we even use it when not referring directly to Rachel. If Victoria or I just want to sit down and veg with a good book we’ll just say were gonna go be Rachel for a while. When she’s not reading or writing she’s off at one of her friend’s from girl scouts goofing around. Rachel is our good student. Her teachers love her because she’s a round peg and their curriculum is suited for round pegs.

Rachel is my little hippy-chick. She is genuinely concerned about a myriad of social issues. Last week she asked me several questions about the different political parties. She was wondering where she fell. So as not to bias her with my own positions I directed her to a short political quiz. She enjoyed taking the quiz and finding out where her political beliefs fell. Like everybody I’m sure her opinions will evolve, but I’m impressed that she is so genuinely concerned about social issues at such a young age.

Aaron is officially taller than Victoria now. We’re gonna have to stop feeding that boy. He will sit down and eat three Arby’s sandwiches and be hungry enough in twenty minutes to fight with his siblings over the leftovers.

Since he turned 14 Aaron has been attending troop 129 in Tucker. That’s the troop that Grampa Jim has been working with for years. The church’s program for boys his age is primarily focused on sports and other activities that didn’t appeal to Aaron as much as the traditional Scouting program. He still attends mutual on Wednesday nights, but also attends scouts on Tuesdays. Recently the two of us helped out with the troops annual Christmas tree sales by running the tree lot for a few nights. Aaron enjoyed the work and his labors will help to pay his way to summer camp this June.

After several years of home-schooling, Aaron decided to head back to public school this year. Unlike Rachel, Aaron is quite the square peg. Actually, I don’t think Aaron is a peg at all. The transition to public school has been anything, but smooth. Fat lips, suspensions, calls from principals, etc. etc. It seems like every problem I had the whole time I was in school, Aaron has been able to condense into his first few months at middle school. We do our best to help things go smoother for him, but short of attending class with him and supervising every moment we just have to continue teaching correct principles and letting them govern themselves.

As if Victoria didn’t have enough to do raising four kids she also had to sign up to be the yearbook lady at school. I bought her a new camera, a Nikon D90 so she could take more pictures to her heart’s content. She took her new role as Yearbook Lady as a cue that she needs to go to school every single day and wander the halls taking pictures. I really feel sorry for who every takes on the role after Victoria leaves, because she has completely expanded the duties well beyond what has previously been expected. Previous yearbook coordinators have simply grabbed the pictures that others have taken and the school pictures and plugged them into the template given by the publisher. Do you think Victoria was content with just doing that? No way baby. She had me download Photoshop CS4 just so she could do a very specific type of journaling around one of the candid shots. Most yearbooks don’t do any journaling at all, let along the type she was looking for. I’m really proud of the extreme effort she’s putting into it. I just wish I could see more of her when she wasn’t looking through a camera or photoshopping the pictures.

Perhaps recognizing that she’s been spending a lot of time at the computer, Victoria has started walking around the park daily. Her mom bought her a pedometer for Christmas and we figured out that she has been walking 6½ miles almost every day. She’s not at marathon pace by any means, but it’s obvious she feels better on days that she has walked. I also enjoy the times when the kids are behaving and we can sneak out and walk together. We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary and what can I say. I still enjoy hanging out with her.

I was released as Scoutmaster this summer and asked to serve as the Committee Chairman. It’s not as hands on as being Scoutmaster, but I enjoy working behind the scenes to support the boys in the Ward. I attended Woodbadge this summer and I’m hoping to complete my ticket and earn my beads by this spring.

I still enjoy reading and updating my blog, however earlier this year ago I noticed a guitar that was lying around the house that wasn’t getting played. So I picked it up and have been trying to teach myself how to play. I’ve been abusing the generosity of friends who also play and hounding them for free lessons and jam sessions. Thank you Dave, Rich and Eric. I’m absolutely lousy, but I find it very relaxing and a whole lot more satisfying than just wasting time playing Guitar Hero. The greatest compliment I expect is when Victoria just recognizes what I’m trying to play. Never mind the quality of my playing, it’s enough sometimes that she can simply can tell what song it is.

Work at the phone factory has been a little hectic with the downturn in the economy, the threat of a strike and the whole AT&T buyout thing. There have been a few rounds of layoffs, but each time they avoid anyone with "engineering" in their job title. I guess they realize that the newer technology is where the future of the company is. So with that in mind I feel pretty safe. I recently applied for and interviewed for a new position. Hopefully, I will get the job. It’s not technically a promotion, but it’s a change to a more technical position. So I’m looking forward to it, but won’t be too upset if I don’t get it.

Well this is by no means a complete synopsis of 2008, but I need to go ahead and post this so I can spend some time with the family. Victoria keeps looking back at me wondering what I’ve been typing for the past three hours, I’m not a fast typist. For more complete details as to what we’ve been up to check out my blog, Victoria’s blog, and Rachel’s blog. And we’re all available on Facebook.com too.

I wish you all Peace on Earth. Goodwill t’ward men.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


When I was a kid I remember two toys that were on the market; one of which I had and the other that I wanted.

The one I wanted was a small truck and large vinyl sheet. You could draw a line on the sheet with the grease pencil that it came with (This must have been before the invention of the dry-erase marker) and the truck would follow the line around the board. There were two little electric eyes that kept the truck on the right path. If the right eye saw black it would turn the wheel slightly to the right to compensate, and if the left saw black I’d follow suit. The toy was slow and methodical and there were a few little things that took some getting used to, like the fact that it had a hard time with really sharp corners and intersecting lines, but it eventually got where you wanted it to go. I never had one of these but a friend did and I loved to play with it. I enjoyed trying to figure out what I need to do to make it change its path and take the correct course.

The other toy was pretty much the polar opposite of this little truck. It was a wind up little clown car that went relatively fast. It went on a rather straight line to start. Out of each side of the car were a little L shaped bars that rotated at slightly different speeds from each other. At the bottom of their rotation the bar would hit the ground and lift the wheels on that side off the ground for a second causing the car to pivot in that direction until the bar could no longer touch the ground. The frantic display of chaos that ensued was fun for a little bit but the novelty quickly work off. This thing would bang into walls, furniture and anything else until the winder expired.

The first car was slow and methodical and constantly checked its progress to make sure it was on track. The second had no method or direction. It just bounced around until it ran out of steam.

For good and for bad, I see many similarities in my children’s behaviors and these two cars. I concede that there are time when its just fun to run around and act crazy for a little while like the second toy. But ultimately Id like the kids to take the path of the first toy. Have a goal and keep working towards it. If you get out of line, thats no problem. Ill help you get back where you need to be and then you can follow the line and keep moving forward.

The really problem comes when they dont seem to even have the capacity to look for and follow the line. They just run around purposelessly no matter if they are on the line or not. Its as if I took the little chaos car and placed it on the grease pencil line and expected it to follow along. I find my self getting increasingly frustrated. I keep picking up the little toy and expecting it to follow the path and it consistently just runs of behaves by a complete different set of logic as if the line and the path underneath dont even exist.

If there were no underlying meaning behind this little story it would be easy to just give up and realize that the car is never going to see the line and quit trying. The reality of my situation is that I dont have that option. Im left with few other options except to pull things back to the right path and them let them go hoping that this time theyll finally learn that they need to follow the path laid out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A few days ago we went through our normal bedtime rituals. After the never ending homework assignments were finished we started up with the baths, pajamas and teeth brushing. This whole process seems to take longer each night and on this particular night it seemed like we started prepping for bed at around 6:30pm still didn't start reading until almost 10:00pm. If we let the kids get too rowdy after their baths it takes quite a while to settle them back down for reading time. So typically I'll go hang out in one of the kids' rooms and quell any uprising as well as stay on guard for hair washing or fetching the always forgotten bath towel.
Our goal is to start reading time early enough that the two youngest don't fall asleep before the end of the chapter. All too frequently, for one reason or another, we fail miserably and the younger ones head off to dreamland without us.
On this particular night Eve had sidled up next to me and was out cold. I put my book down and just stared at her for a while. We're not financially wealthy and we don't have a lot of stuff from the materialistic standpoint. But the look of comfort and contentment on her face just made me ponder about what we do have. Lying there in her fleece footie-jamas she was warm and comfortable. She was clean and even freshly bathed. Her tummy was full, granted is was just a few slices of frozen pizza but it was food that she liked and she had plenty. In a few hours she would wake up and have a hot breakfast and be off to school. Far too many people children on this planet go to sleep with out these basic necessities and comforts.
As I try to think of what else I should get the kids for Christmas I can't help but focus on how much I really do have. A new game for the kids' Nintendo DS just kind seems trivial.