The Christmas Letters


Ed Note: Due to difficulties within a certain relationship, The Christmas Letters have been discontinued as of December 2012.  Prob'ly for the best because for the last few-to-several years (if not for the whole run), it was a big fuckin' lie anyway.  So - sorry about that.


2011 – The Miscellaneousness Of it All

We were surprised this year to learn that we’ve been married for 25 years. Whoa! Honestly – did not see that coming. As we pass these milestones, we feel compelled to reflect; to take stock of our lives; to ask, ‘just what the hell is happening here?’, but we especially have to wonder when our kids went from being cute and precocious to this Teenager 2.0 Thing From The 8th Dimension, and why it seems like all we do is stare blankly as events unfold while asking each other, ‘What were they thinking?’ and ‘How do we know if this is a real problem?’ and ‘When did we run out of Xanax?’. Back to the reflection - about the last thing a pair of 14 year olds and a college sophomore want to do is participate in anything as lame as the family Christmas picture, so we coaxed them into a retreat of sorts at a local diner by offering what the teenage species (voracitus grotesque-itum) craves most: free food. It’s not quite as easy as throwing raw pork chops to a pack of coyotes, but it’s close. If you cook it, they will come. So there we all were, going over the highs and lows that one or some of us remembered about 2011, although it was never unanimous. Scattergorically speaking, most of what follows is true.

-Turn down the freaking heat, close the doors and quit leaving the stove on! A 426-gallon propane fill at about $1200 automatically triggered the wool socks and hoodie rule in January. It was about that time that we decided to boost our intake of beans and onions, and to require the use of Personal Gastro-Methane Collection Units. This will not only offset the cost of fuel, but we’re hoping it serves as an effective birth control method as well (patents pending). We know we shouldn’t obsess about the awakening of youthful explorations, but seriously – God help us all if these people start to breed right now.
-Facebook – We’ve come to realize that just because our kids friend us, we still don’t know what’s going on. They write everything in code, or put it all on the private message section, or they go offline and text it on their phones. We maintain the illusion that we’re able to monitor their activities through the GPS feature on their phones, which lets us track their whereabouts, but does little to ease the angst of what we imagine they’re doing out there.
-We decided to get a new cat to replace poor Monty who died unexpectedly – in a gruesomely entertaining way, which has become kind of the hallmark of how these things happen around here. Anyway, the new cat is named ZZ. Romeo (Monty’s surviving brother) despised him for the first month and now barely tolerates him. Of course, ZZ is a teenager so we’re very sympathetic to Romeo’s point of view.

Our seldom annual but always fun 4th of July gathering was preceded this year by Michael and Luke making a run into Pennsylvania to acquire the celebratory explosives. Michael goes to some lengths to plan the timing and the positions and the trajectories of all the fireworks in order to maximize the ‘WOW factor”. Guests arranged themselves in their folding chairs on the south lawn under the darkening sky and the show started. Toward the end, an errant firebrand found its way into the arsenal, changing the vertical aspect to horizontal, and in a shower of exploding flares and shrieking embers, we were treated to an inspiring bit of impromptu audience participation, as there was much dancing and skipping, and running and screaming, and stopping and dropping and rolling. Some singed hair and clothing, spilled beverages and a few grass stains, with the only real casualty being the dignity of our guests – but they’ve been to our parties before so they should be used to that. Nick told us later that if the one that hit him had been slightly to the left (or had it exploded just a bit earlier), our Grandchildren Probability Quotient would’ve dropped by several points. Wow indeed. Bravo sir - bravo.

The summer trip to Colorado went off without a hitch (and also for the 1st time without Nick, who stayed home to “work”). It was the usual 10 days of pleasantness, punctuated by several moments of sheer terror as Michael took Sadie and Luke out on the dirt roads east of Colorado Springs and let them each drive the rental car.

The year would seem incomplete without an encounter with the American Healthcare System, and Michael stepped up in 2011 to have his left hip replaced. This is a guy who has his wisdom teeth in a “Mojo Jar” on a shelf in his office, so he asked the surgeon if he could keep the pieces of his hip that were about to be removed. He was told no, because it’s a bio hazard and most everyone heard my sigh of relief. As we reminisced about the surgery, we discovered a four-hour gap in Mike’s memory as he swam up out of the anesthesia, so I had to tell him that when he was being instructed (less than one day post-op) on how to sit up, brace himself, swivel, throw one leg over the side of the bed, scoot to the edge and stand up, he looked at the physical therapy crew and said “Are you kidding me? I’m gonna need more drugs”.

More on the blessings of children
Luke: “I told my teacher I can’t say for sure he’s a guy because I’ve never seen his genitals.”
Mike, tossing grapes for Luke to catch in his mouth: “It’s like having your own gorilla.”
Luke: “Dad should be in better shape with all the exercise he gets jumping to conclusions”
Sadie: Saw her first shooting star but said it didn’t count because it was a meteor shower.
Sadie: when Mike suggested thoroughly draining and rinsing the ground beef: “Who washes their meat?”
Sadie and Luke: “Why don’t you swear, Mom? But I do swear. Not like Dad you don’t.”

Vivir la vida de la tolerancia cero
-Nick: The great Cherry Street flash mob party. You can throw a party, and even if you don’t drink, when the cops show up and guests are found with alcohol, you can be arrested for MIP. You can also be arrested for CDM even though you’re actually UAP and not really MIP; and then you’re SOL anyway. Court dates loom.
-Luke: Just standing next to someone who’s smoking a joint can get you banned from the local shopping mall. We got it reduced to ‘OK, if accompanied by a parent’ a few months later, but it was great fun at the time explaining to the Security Supervisor that yes, we understand the need for enforcing the rules, but we’re not talking criminal mastermind here. He was out of line, and he got busted – BY A MALL COP. Not exactly Holmes vs Moriarty, now is it? He remained unimpressed.

Music
-Fab Faux-Washington, DC: They covered Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in their usual spectacular way.
-Tonguesnatcher Revue–Springfield, IL: A band of good friends from the 70’s. Reunited after 30 years and put on one hell of a show, aptly dubbed The Assisted Living Tour. Next show will be the Intravenous Feeding Tour. Attending the show were friends from far and wide, who hadn’t seen each other in more than 25 years. We also lucked into the Mother Road Festival with more than 2,000 tricked-out hotrods. Muscle cars and rock-n-roll; it doesn’t get better than that.
-Atmosphere–Richmond: I have no idea who they are or what they do, but Nick assures me they were awesome.

My mom at 86
-A cold snap in Colorado puts the thermometer at -30 but Helen simply MUST go out to buy beets to make borscht.
-During her Thanksgiving visit, she went for a ride in a hot air balloon (cross that one off the bucket list). Upon landing, there weren’t enough champagne glasses to go around, so she says she’ll just take the bottle.

Worth a mention
I celebrated the 10th anniversary of Tuesday Night With The Girls by signing us all up for a weekend of detox (that Group Rate makes all the difference). At the NCAA Lax tournament this year, one of my earrings dove down the drain in the hotel bathroom, which led to a small DIY plumbing project, which led to discovering my passion for Urban Mining. Lots of good stuff to be found in those sink traps. From now on, I’m packing some channel locks, and I’ll be staying in better hotels.

An apocalypse to call my very own
Earthquakes threatening the local nuclear power plant. Tornadoes. Record-breaking rains. And then - Hurricane Irene. “Irene forces cruise ships to divert”; “Irene forces massive evacuations”; “Irene is potentially a multimillion dollar disaster”: “Go Away Irene”. Not exactly feelin’ the love here, but then: “Respect and Fear Irene”; “President Closely Monitors Irene”; “You can’t relax if Irene hasn’t arrived where you live”. That’s better – now if I could just get the kids to buy into it.

So that’s about all for this year. I think I have just enough room for this blessing from the Apache: May the sun bring you energy by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away your worries. May the breeze blow new strength into your being. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.

Wishing Peace and Love and the Strength born of Kindness for all,

MINSL
mrit@msn.com





Family Roberts
2010: A Year of Missing

Publishers Note: The annual letter was delayed for a variety of reasons, including (but not restricted to) Conflicting Schedules, Time Constraints, Personnel Availability, and a general lack of focus. Please accept our apologies if the delay in anyway made you doubt our good intentions of sending you greetings from Planet MINSL.

Everybody knows the feeling you get when you plan a party and worry that nobody will show up. Well, that’s what this whole year seemed like as we tried to get our act together enough to produce evidence of our continued existence. Nick was out of town, I was out of the state, Sadie was out shopping, Luke was out looking for trouble, and Mike was out of his pea-pickin’ mind – ok, so some things never change – but really, we had such great expectations. It just felt like the entire family had been out-sourced at one time or another.

The year started off no differently than any other, unless you count the record-breaking snowfall. Trapped inside for what seemed an eternity during three monster storms in a 3-week period, we learned just how dependent we are on a minor miracle called electricity, and that “quality time with the family” is not easily sustainable past the 53rd hour of a Monopoly game. On about day four after the power went out, heating became the prime concern - funny how being surrounded by deciduous forest is of no help at all when your chain saw is electric. Anyway, at a certain point, the very purpose of living comes into question, and you find yourself thinking you might have to eat one of the cats - or one of the kids - just to break the monotony. At one point, Michael had an inspired thought on how to stay warm, but some quick research revealed that one of the unfortunate side affects of burning charcoal in your fireplace is death by asphyxiation. Those consumer product warning labels come in right handy on occasion. It occurred to me later that if we’d only had a couple of BTUs for every dumb joke we heard about Global Warming or Al Gore, we’d have been in great shape. Eventually, we managed to dig out enough of a pathway to leave the property, only to be stopped again less than 50 yards down the road by felled trees. Ropes, ladders, handsaws, and much cursing ensued and we made our getaway into town only to find, of course, that everybody else had the same problems, and very few had been quite as desperate to get out as we were. We scored a couple of candy bars at 7-11 and moped our way back home.

Cooking Adventure: We happened upon a recipe calling for semi-sweet chocolate and Rice Krispies and All-Bran cereal. The end result was something we dubbed “bear shit squares”. Yummy and gooey, and chock full of healthy fiber, but it’s best if you don’t see ‘em before you eat ‘em. So if your power goes out, and you feel like cooking in the dark, call me up for the recipe!

Bragging on the kids (feel free to skip ahead): Kudos to Nick for landing a VCU Provost’s Scholarship, probably based on his essay about my dad (known to the kids as Geedo). Nick told us well after the fact that he embellished a bit. We think he may have written that Geedo carried MacArthur across the Pacific on his back, and then engineered the fall of the Soviet Union with a few phone calls to some of his old Air Force buddies. So he’s in school studying physics, and if that doesn’t pan out, his talent for re-imagining historical fact should land him a comfortable leadership position with the Republicans.

Sadie accepted the challenge to get straight A’s just so she could dye her hair black. And it looked awesome. Of course now she wants the same deal for a tattoo, and we’re thinking there’s nothing wrong with a few B’s.

Luke has really taken to the cooking part of his home-ec class (they call it Life Skills now). He is making ‘to die for’ pumpkin muffins. Hopefully he’ll widen his repertoire because we’re all starting to look a bit orange.

Lacrosse remains the sport of choice for 60% of the family. Nick is turning into a go-to-guy with VCU’s club team. Sadie plays on her Middle School team. Luke also does the Middle School lacrosse thing, plus he played for a travel team in the summer, placing 3rd in one tournament and winning another.

Notable Remarkification:
- Michael : “I don’t want to limit your potential regarding women and the closeness of your relationships”. Bet you thought he was talking to Nick when actually t’was I. Perhaps I am exhibiting latent lesbian tendencies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

- Sadie said she didn’t like NYC because “the last time I was there all I ate was Cocoa Puffs”.

- Nick told me, “Mom, you’re not thinking like a ho”. I’m still waiting for a suitable explanation for that one.

- Luke answered a telemarketer’s call and, explaining why he decided to handle the call himself, he said “Dad would just say, ‘don’t f*@#!ing call this number again, a*$hole’; I didn’t want the guy to feel bad”.

A highlight for Luke this year was being flashed by a college girl in a car as she passed their bus on a field trip to the Wallops Island Science Consortium. Cool trip. The kids get to explore and learn about the coastal wetlands by abruptly disappearing into sinkholes, ruining or losing thousands of dollars worth of clothing and assorted gear, and punking the local fire department with false alarms. 13-year-old boys just can’t have any more fun than that.

The summer included another trip to Colorado and a stay near Estes Park at a house that had no cable, no cell phone service and no Internet. Suffice to say we were challenged. Fishing was lackluster and the opportunities for family bonding proved minimal (see power outage; 2nd paragraph; above). And then …

I had a rather lengthy psychotic episode. I thought interviewing for (and then accepting) a position in Colorado at CU Medical Center made perfect sense. Mike and I would return to the place of our youth and life would be perfect. So I quit my job at UVa, packed up the car and drove west to take up residence in the spare room in the basement of a random stranger’s house in a gentrified part of east Denver. The plan was for me to settle into my new job while Mike readied the house to sell, and Sadie and Luke finished Middle School. Nick would finish his first year at VCU and then transfer to CU for his 2nd year. And then the plan derailed (as plans tend to do). The stars just were not, in any respect, properly aligned. Leaving the kids and Mike proved to be a lot harder than it sounded. The job held great promise, I loved being around my mom and my brothers and my BFF Laurel; my roommate Kelly and her fabulous neighbors (especially Mick and Michael), and my Michael’s family helped tremendously, but in the cold light of day it wasn’t working for me. So I sucked it up and quit my job (hope that doesn’t get to be a habit). Nick flew out and helped me pack and drive home. Nick’s music selection didn’t thrill me, but it’s definitely not something that’s going to let you fall asleep at the wheel, so there’s that. Anyway, the drive back home was without drama – how come the one thing that goes right was never part of the plan in the first place? One thousand-six hundred and four miles (not that I counted) in two days. We rocked! I was able to resume my previous position with UVa and I feel extremely lucky, as everyone here tells me I can either stay until I retire or leave in a body bag. I prefer to hear that as a compliment rather than a threat.

My stint in Colorado gave me a chance to spend some time with Mike’s dad, John, whose bout with cancer took a final, sad turn toward Christmas. Pop died on New Years’ Eve with his sons beside him. It’s obvious that we celebrate both a beginning and an ending at the start of a new year, but sometimes those endings and beginnings are made a little clearer by certain events, and we have good reason to make a little extra noise.

In a year of missing the ones we love, and of what seemed like missed opportunities and mixed blessings, I guess we can still take a full measure of satisfaction knowing God loves you when you sing and the devil fears an open, loving heart.

Love as always and forever,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com




Merry Christmas 2009 from all of us at MINSL - or as we are now known:
 Michael’s Institute for Nuance, Sophistry & Learning

It was quite a year for this crazy experiment called living.  And it started with the first of many teachable moments that led us to the possibility of launching our own higher-learning institution.  Leaving for the first day back at work after the holidays last year, I walked a few steps into the kitchen and fell over.  Pinched nerve and spasms you wouldn’t believe.  It took a good 40 minutes to make it to the couch – a trek of nearly 16 feet.  And that’s where I stayed for 5 days, during which time I perfected a technique that allowed me to roll off onto my knees to pee in a mixing bowl.  Naturally, I assume the scientific community will find this inexpensive alternative to catheterization an indispensible clinical tool.  I fully expect to see it mentioned in the final version of Healthcare Reform Legislation.  Hey, don’t laugh; it worked.

Nick scored well on his SATs, but not wanting to leave his fate to the Registrar Gods, we decided to start our own college.  This will guarantee admission for Nick as well as his siblings, and anyone else willing to send us big stacks of cash.  We have no actual students enrolled yet, but we’re developing a curriculum that includes Exurban Biology.  Monty and Romeo (resident cat brothers) serve as our expert procurement staff and bring us various critters for testing.  Their productivity dropped off a bit recently and made it necessary for me to hunt down an adult deer with my car yesterday morning.  We’ve also opened a new Center for Marine Biology out at the pool.  The auxiliary refrigerator in the garage has been earmarked for Pharmacology storage.  We now just rotate the food out of the kitchen fridge instead of throwing it away.  You can never have enough penicillin these days.  

Early in the year, Nick received his honest-to-God, real-deal, driver’s license.  He stops by the house once in a while for gas money or a sandwich.  Mastering a stick shift was a challenge, but now he’s able to lord this skill over his peers.  So there’s another theory that panned out – none of his buddies can borrow his car – we’re calling this one a qualified success because the true outcome will require many years of study – we’ve applied for several grants.  Nick’s braces came off as well.  At about the same time, Sadie got her braces installed, and we’re wondering if we missed getting a better deal by not going for a hand-me-down kinda thing.  Reuse, reduce, and recycle.  So anyway, Sadie has braces and I’m sure the orthodontist will send us another nice postcard from Tuscany or Fiji or wherever we’ve sent his family this time.  She didn’t really need them but we figure it’ll postpone the kissing-of-boys experiment for a year or so.  We believe this and we’d appreciate you not telling us otherwise.  Meanwhile, Luke is still Luke.  It seems his goal in life is to push our buttons like a peyote dealer workin’ straight commission.  He does a killer Robert De Niro impression which usually gets us laughing to the point where we don’t mind that he’s just dumped a new carton of raw eggs and an open juice container on the floor and mopped it up with one of the cats – and then swears that Elvis did it.

Summer Session: We were off to Colorado for the annual ‘va-oblig-cation’ which we don’t mind at all.  My brother Will secured 17 tickets to the Denver Outlaws game at Mile-High Stadium.  (more about lacrosse later)  The rain was unrelenting but we enjoyed ourselves just the same.  As a coach in one of the youth leagues, Will’s team took the field at halftime for an exhibition game.  Very cool.  Mike and Nick went into the mountains to investigate the fish stocks.  “There are absolutely no fish of any kind in any of these waters” was the gist of their report, but maybe the absence of fish could be attributed to the fact that it SNOWED while they were up there – and it kinda freaked them out a little because they weren’t prepared for ice fishing in July.  I’m still wondering if it’s all just a “fish story” or an attempt to prove Global Climate Change, or maybe it’s just hypoxia.  We stopped in Boulder for a day to visit with Mike’s brother, John.  The kids went off to a local park to play some Frisbee, and all was well until Luke tangled with a juvenile aspen tree.  Luke says the tree was asking for it; looked like 15 rounds and no decision to me.   In the end, we were experimenting with gauze pads, antiseptic ointment, and skin tape.  This being Boulder, of course our first concern was for the well-being of the tree.  Luke recovered as well.

Athletic Dept:  Nick played Varsity last year and has a fair shot at starting at one of the Attack positions this year.  His team reached the quarter-finals, losing to the big school from Northern Virginia that went on to win it all.  He continued to play during the summer and went to Philadelphia and Baltimore for club team tournaments, and then again to DC this fall.  They won their bracket in Philly, even though they were without leadership because their college-aged coaches were arrested for underage drinking and landed in jail.  That was fun.  Luke and Sadie both play on their middle school teams.  Girl’s lacrosse is more balletic and gentle except for Sadie since she practices with her brothers.  Tough as a cop and mean as a snake – not generally words we use to describe our delicate vampire diva, but sometimes apropos when describing her occasional treatment of the opposing players.  Luke mixes it up to such an extent that he is frequently dinged.  eg: a pass nailed him in the left eye that sent his pupil into spasms, contracting it to an alarmingly small size.  True to form, he walked it off and got back in there.  He’s become known as a ground ball machine, and in one game the coach of the opposing team was heard to say, “Who is that guy?  We need to get like 4 guys on him!”  That’s my boy.

Music Dept Report:  spontaneous outbreak of the old campfire song, “B-I-N-G-O”, which morphed into an impromptu concert with Luke on the sax and the rest of us singing along.  We were impressed even if the neighbors weren’t.  Also, we handle Hallelujah pretty well, with Luke and Nick doing a piano duet.  Sadie’s not into the same music as the rest of us and when she learned Fergie had “gone black” she asked if there had been an actual race change.  Let’s just leave that one alone and say that different kinds of art require different levels of interpretation, OK?

Concert update for 2009:
Robin Ford, Ruthie Foster and Jorma Kaukonen Nick’s VDay present from (GF) Haley
New Orleans Jazz heritage Festival (great acts) Irene (in New Orleans on business)
U2/Muse                                                         Nick – only one of us who could afford to go
Metallica                                                        Nick – only one of us wanted to go
Eagles                                                            Mike and Irene
Bruce Springsteen                                           Irene – only one who was interested
Jimmy Buffet                                                  Irene – that ukulele player is awesome

An incident involving Mike’s personal hygiene went slightly awry – nearly spinning off into Emo territory actually.  He thought he had a tick on a very sensitive part of his man-anatomy and after unsuccessful attempts at removal with the more conventional methods of toothpaste, match-heads and tweezers, he hit on the inspired notion of a little something we’ve come to call scrotal excision – yes, he tried to cut the “tick” off with a pair of scissors.  It turned out to be a small mole.  Not the cute and furry burrowing kind (that might make a better story), but the little red bump on the skin kind.  Much bleeding and hilarity ensued as we couldn’t help but make comments about our new Dean of Silly Walks.  This was an event that will pay comedic dividends for years by way of unrelenting, in his face, ‘you idjit’ kinds of remarks.  Like the man said, “Ya cain’t fix stupid.”

Fall comes and everyone is back to school.  The changes are many.  Mike fell victim to a bad economy and is back to his Mr. Mom role.  It’s a good opportunity to continue developing the curriculum, and he loves being called Mr. Provost.  The mail has increased ten-fold for Nick from schools fishing for a big, fat check from his Mummy and Daddy in order to see their progeny spring-boarded into a dynamic and well-heeled future.  We’ve got the big-and-fat thing down, but it has little to do with money.

My mom graced us with her presence over the Thanksgiving holiday.  A day trip to DC found us at the Holocaust Museum.  It’s really not the most fun you can have on a random Friday, but certainly important to remember.  Back at the house, we concentrated on making Ukrainian eggs and perehe (perogi’s for the ethnic-food-challenged).  Only one mishap, but a big one.  Leaning out over the work table, Luke upended a jar filled with red dye (permanent, of course) and suddenly, the Art Department looked like something straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.  We hauled the Chinese carpet (very expensive is what we told the kids) out onto the driveway and proceeded to try various cleaning solutions that ranged from soda water to white wine (spritzer, anyone?).  The neighbors probably thought we’d “gone rural”, hauling household furnishings outside.  We do try to fit in with the prevailing local culture.

So, another year, another plan, and more chances to learn everything all over again.  We look forward to receiving applications from you to attend our institute, where the tuition is low and the standards are even lower.  

Y’all come.
MINSL
mrit@msn.com






2008 - Another Year of Firsts

Nick’s driving, Mike’s working, Luke’s passion is fishing, Sadie loves vampires, and people are telling me that I bear some resemblance to Sarah Palin. Vanity requires me to assume they mean it in the physical, and not in the political or intellectual sense . To my knowledge, I’ve never been mistaken for a Vice-Presidential candidate, but there was a particularly eventful weekend in about 1979 when I may have resembled Fritz Mondale.

More firsts: Virginia and Colorado both went blue and helped get an African-American elected president! Yeah, you betcha!

We made it to Colorado for two weeks mid-summer in spite of attracting the kind of attention from airport security that you’d think would be reserved for a really tall swarthy guy with a beard and sandals and a travelling dialysis team. We celebrated Nick’s 16th birthday with all the family in Colorado Springs. One of the highlights of the party had to be the piñata. Nick decided he could take it out with one strong lacrosse shot, so after chipping away at it with a barrage that also removed about 6 feet of my mom’s back fence, he nailed it dead center and the candy went flying. The next day we headed up into the mountains in our version of a convoy. With several vehicles carrying a variety of equipment and furniture, I imagine we looked a little like Dust Bowl refugees, but we had a great time winding our way over Wolf Creek pass, regaling the kids with stories of CB radios and silly nicknames and dodging Smokey, while they sat and stared back at us as if we’d peeled off our skin to reveal our true alien selves. I’m hoping they forget that little episode before it’s time for them to choose a nursing home for us.

Upon arriving at our luxury accommodations at Lake Vallecito (which actually had some water in it this time – woohoo), we met lodge manager extraordinaire, Ron (the weevil) Bevil - who became quite the topic of conversation and figured prominently in our time there. ‘Prominently’ may be the wrong word, as it generally indicates a certain ‘presence’ – a concept Ron had a little trouble grasping. Ron could be counted on to be just about anywhere other than where you needed him, or where he said he would be at any given moment. Just waking up and making it to the front desk seemed to take him most of the day and was apparently an exhausting ordeal for the poor man. I’m not sure he remembered us from one day to the next, as he always seemed surprised to see us. I’ve heard of Early Onset Dementia, but I think this guy was just a couple of drumsticks short of a chicken.
Where there’s water, there must be fish, so Luke and Nick got pretty handy at catching trout under the tutelage of their cousin Steve. Mike’s fishing technique was sorely tested, and produced mostly lost or damaged tackle, but the guy can cook a trout, and we feasted on fresh-from-the-lake Rainbows. Sadie went on her first horseback ride. She said she hated it because the horses were rude and smelled bad and made her butt hurt, but she wanted to know when she could go again. Nick got his first good taste of rental car abuse – and did it in glorious fashion. He managed to break out the rear window of our rented minivan with an errant lacrosse ball. Actually, the ball was a bit off the mark, but of course the hitchhiking rock had no trouble at all finding the bull’s eye. Luke had his first encounter with the shocking temperature (or lack thereof) in a mountain lake. He jumped off the boat his Uncle Mike had rented one afternoon, and came out of the water faster than he went in. It looked like somebody ran the film backwards. His facial expression was worthy of a MasterCard commercial.

My mom went on her first white water rafting trip. Also, we took a day hike into the Wemenuche Wilderness. The water was high on the Pine River and Nick was determined to cross it. Next thing I knew he was laying on the river bank with his shoes and socks drying in the sun. Along with his brand new, high-dollar cell phone. This may be the first time his dad has heard about that.

Musical performances for the year included:

Van Halen, 3 OH! 3, Warped Tour, Joe Satriani, Fab Faux, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen

Nick continues with guitar and lacrosse. He went to Boston for the first time to see the NCAA LAX tournament. Luke, after deciding piano wasn’t his instrument anymore, started with trumpet, but then switched to saxophone. He’s not Tom Scott yet, but at least it’s not like the sound of ripping metal as we feared; and he’s not doggedly determined to play reveille every morning any more. Sadie has stuck with piano and still enjoys it. She is also quite the accomplished hip-hop dancer. A bit disturbing if I allow myself to think about it too much, but it’s fun to watch her because she moves so well. Now if we can get them all to concentrate on academics as much as they do on music and sports we’ll call it good.

This just in from Indoor Midgets Lacrosse: Luke was up against the toughest (and dirtiest) kid on the court; “the kid is cradling really tight and tries to roll to Luke’s off hand, but Luke pivots backside and wrap checks the kid for a wicked yard sale. He scoops the jeeb, split-dodges the D and sticks a lefty G top right. It was Beast, Mom!” I have no idea what I’ve just told you, but I think I’m feeling quite proud right now.

My mom was able to come out again at Thanksgiving. Our days were filled with food and laughter and love and food. Did I mention the food? She brought about 12 dozen pirogue’s packed in dry ice in her suitcase. No idea why she wasn’t stopped by airport security – you don’t usually see a lot of luggage that seems to be smoking. Maybe with all the spying and wiretapping that goes on now, the feds already knew they were just CMDs (Calories of Mass Destruction). Anyway, those were all gone by about day 4 so of course we had to make more. Twice. We also did Ukrainian Easter eggs. Well, my mom did Ukrainian eggs and the rest of us dyed some eggs while borrowing certain Ukrainian techniques. Nick’s had water, waves, and dragons on them; Mike’s were a cross between Peter Max in 1968 and Dr Seuss on acid. Sadie’s were mostly black or red with some sort of blood-and-fangs reference. Luke’s were freeform and had an eerie quality to them, and mine were odd paisley things. I think I did a combination moose head and slaughtered turkey, too. Mom took a bunch of them home with her – I guess she liked them; or maybe she just wanted to be sure nobody else saw them.

With everything that’s happened this year; everything that’s about to change for 2009; all that we have to both fear and to hope for; I guess I’m having some difficulty finding a good way to wrap it all up. But maybe this isn’t such an extraordinary time. Maybe it’s always been about the “hopes and fears of all the years”, and we just need to relearn certain lessons once in a while. As always, we wish you peace, and the warmth of a loving heart to hold you close.

Love,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com




  Christmas 2007?  Inconceivable!

A giant, a pirate, a Sicilian, a mercenary and a princess walk into a bar in The Fire Swamp. No, sorry, that’s the wrong joke; or the wrong movie; or whatever. Somebody once said, “God is a comedian playing to crowd that’s too afraid to laugh”.

This year turned into a fanciful ride - also fretful, fitful and frightful. (Nice alliteration don't you think?) You might recall, near the end of last year’s letter, we were “off to Colorado for the holidays.” How young and naïve we were back then. Before it actually began, Christmas ended on a note of epically pathetic proportions. On the 23rd of December, we were all out of bed well before dawn ( for this crew that’s a big deal) and happily motoring to Richmond under the impression that we could coax a struggling air travel system to squeak just one medium-sized airliner into Colorado Springs between snowstorms in the Rockies. A couple of hours later we glumly trudged back home, where there was no party, no tree, no decorations, no food, no stockings – all of Christmas had been mailed to my mom’s. I had no idea the lower lip of a human could jut out so far. And the kids looked even worse. We were a drab and humorless group. Inconceivable!

Trying to make up for the Christmas disappointments, we all packed off to Jamaica for Spring Break. Loads of fun if you enjoy a kid-focused resort with round-the-clock karaoke contests and games of Capture the Flag on the beach right outside your room until midnight every night. It was frenetic and tense, and not at all a problem if you become fast friends with the bartenders.

And then there was The Road Trip at the end of June. Not quite the Keroac kind of road trip, although it seemed nearly as bizarre in some ways, especially considering we’re pretty sure we weren’t stoned. Although there was that eerie little side trip off the highway in central Michigan. What everybody knows of course, is that you never get involved in a land war in Asia – only slightly less well known is that you never leave the highway in search of a cleverly elusive Bob’s Big Boy when lunch is on the line! We visited 10 states and a foreign country all told (not on that particular side trip). Damn near did us in. Half of the Canadian leg of the trip was very interesting in a spiky and…well… French kind of way. Road signs in French (Luke is the only one with even a rudimentary grasp of that language) and distances listed in kilometers. In fact dealing with the metric system and trying to calculate tips and exchange rates, I think we may have financed most of the Canadian government for the next several years. Ce n’est pas envisageable!

It all served as a strong signal that we weren’t in the Fire Swamp anymore, except maybe for the occasional Rodent Of Unusual Size meandering on the side of the road. Highlights for the kids (all five of us) included:

· Cedar Point, Ohio – rollercoaster capital of the world. 0-120 mph in 3.8 seconds on a thing called Top Thrill Dragster. Inconceivable !

· Driving through a hellacious thunderstorm in Ohio and seeing a hand-painted plywood sign that was nailed to a tree, advertising Dr. Boom’s Lightning Rods.

· Canadian road signs (in French) warning of aggressive moose after dark (we think). Unsettling.

· Hiking the waterfalls that feed Lake Superior. Breathtaking.

· Arriving in International Falls on day 7 to meet family. Staying for a week on the shores of Rainy Lake with approximately 35 members (and claimed members) of our clan. Awesome. The most promising prospect is the book that one of my cousins will be writing called ‘Boating with George’. I guess you had to be there to get the true sense of a high seas adventure, but let’s just say that when it comes to watercraft, George’s name might just as well be Murphy.

Back home and all is well until my dad got sick. Knowing that someone or something had been trying to kill him since he joined the Marines in 1941, it’s hard to believe he wasn’t able to beat this one. Thank God he was with us and in good health for the Minnesota trip. What a character. Handing out money to the kids, assuring all of us that he was “authorized to have another beer” and always asking for Mom. He was 84 (in human years) when he died. He had a good life and he came to a good end.

And what would our letter be without a recap of the music in our lives. Nick continues with guitar. Sadie and Luke are still playing piano. Concerts were plentiful as well.

· A High School Musical

· Billy Joel (Me and my girlfriends. Mike wouldn’t even consider it.)

· Red Hot Chili Peppers (Nick and Mike)

· Rod Stewart (tickets were free – what can I say)

· Peter Frampton (Nick and me – the instrumentals were phenomenal)

· Bob Dylan & Elvis Costello (missed this one because we were all in Colorado but the word is that Costello was the only part worth seeing)

· Megadeth (ONLY Nick & friends – my ears bleed just thinking about this one)

· Nutcracker (Sadie danced the role of a Party Guest with the Moscow Ballet)

Naming Nick’s band (a New and inconceivable Family Pastime)
· Spermatically Challenged
· The Band That Dare Not Speak Its Name
· Malignant Dwarf
· Fuzzy Tapioca
· Metal Hygiene
Family Update
· Parents – still working
· Kids – still in school
· Cats – still alive

My mom came out to see us for a couple of weeks at Thanksgiving. She probably feels like it was two months. We had a great time. One of my favorite highlights was the impromptu exercise session where she stepped up her game and did 50 sit-ups. Beat me by 22.

At this time of year, as we are made to feel safe and warm and loved; knowing there are many who will pass these days alone and afraid and far from home, we will hope that the season of peace must surely touch the hearts of those who would lead; so they might listen and respond finally with a simple ‘As you wish’.

With all our love,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com





2006 - There's a hole in Daddy's House Where All the Money Goes

...with a nod to the prophet John Prine, and his parable ‘Sam Stone‘ - about addiction. A near perfect metaphor for our house. It’s like owning a heroin junkie. Over the year we’ve endured numerous episodes of dysfunction where we’ve had to conduct interventions. Air conditioner repairmen, pool repairmen, plumbers, furnace repairmen, and many others have convened here to see if we can cure this place. All the resources brought to bear on rehab thus far seem to be of little consequence. Currently the house is (again) without a cohesive strategy for heat. Our plan is to withhold the cost of fixing yet another failed system, hoping a dose of tough love will convince the house to pull itself together and begin operating in a mature and reasonable manner. We’re in the wait-and-see mode, but if certain benchmarks aren’t met over the next six months, a strategic redeployment may be necessary.

Highlights in 2006 -
· Our children took three baths in one week at the beginning of January - a new personal best that we constantly encourage them to repeat, but to no avail.
· Furnace quits
· Nick flies to Colorado for Spring Break (alone!) and busts his arm snowboarding. Just letting him go by himself was worrisome enough, but dealing with the emergency - and the Emergency Room doctors - long distance pretty much rounded out the whole ‘nightmare scenario’ for us. He, on the other hand, was nonchalant and worried only about not being able to finish his lacrosse season. In the end, we were delighted that he brought home a full bottle of Vicodin so all is forgiven.
· Sadie, Luke and I headed east to Nag’s Head for Spring Break. Sadie, seeing the ocean for the first time, says it looks just like a screensaver.
· Mike unclogs a hose on the washing machine and the quality of his workmanship becomes evident during the next wash load when Nick asks why there is water pouring out of the vent fan in the downstairs bathroom.
· Pool pump springs a leak
· Fixing your shoe while it’s on your foot is a mistake. I glued my big toe to the insole of my sandal and then promptly glued my finger to my big toe when I tried to pry it loose.
· Pool pump springs another leak
· Luke takes a shower with the curtain on the outside of the tub. It leaks through the floor and the family room ceiling starts to crumble.
· Air conditioner breaks down just as my parents and my brother are coming for a visit, so we buy two window units in an attempt to cool the house to a few degrees below the melting point of lead.
· Second trip to Nag’s Head. Luke decides there’s nothing like Alaskan King Crab legs and refuses to eat anything else. Yet another expensive addiction to deal with in our family.
· We are not surprised to learn that there’s no such thing as a factory-made replacement for our AC coil so it has to be custom-made.
· Attempts to drain some water from the pool after a massive downpour are botched. The out-take valve doesn’t close properly and overnight we lose 4000 gallons of water. Can’t drain the well to refill the pool so we order water to be delivered. A man of uncertain origin and questionable hygiene shows up and runs his truck off our driveway ruining 15’ of asphalt as a result.
· Trip to Smith Mtn Lake for the wedding of a good friend provided us with a much-needed respite from the drain our house is having on us.
· Mike and I celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Traditionally, your 20th is commemorated with emeralds or china, but we opted to mark the occasion with a load of drywall and a large bucket of spackle. 
· Concert attendance - the music in this family plays on no matter what 
  -Little Feat 
  -Delbert McClinton 
  -Ravens Place (Nick’s homegrown favorite) 
  -Navel (another local selection by Nick) 
  -Eric Clapton 

Luke finished his first year of football with a grim determination to return to soccer as soon as possible. Actually, he played well even though at 73 pounds he was the smallest Nose Guard in the league. Now we’re preparing for Sadie’s performance in the Nutcracker with The Moscow Ballet Company. She’s a snowflake (insert joke here). Sadie and Luke will both play piano in a holiday recital the following week. Nick is still into guitar. No recital to attend, but the whole neighborhood gets to listen to him practice every night. In fact, that may be why the house is rebelling. The internal air pressure caused by high decibel levels may be a bit of a strain. On the plus side we have no termites or other vermin to speak of - even the bear seems to be keeping his distance. After all that we’re off to Colorado for the holidays in the hopes of saying goodnight to this year and wishing ourselves better luck for next. We’ll certainly need it. We’ve already set ourselves the aggressive financial goal of buying a very nice boat for the orthodontist in 2007.

Finally, we note the passing of another year filled with the forbidden imagery of the “flag-draped coffin on a local heroes’ hill”; and we wonder at how small our daily grumbling seems, compared with what others are made to sacrifice on the altar of power and ambition. We hold out great hope of once again realizing the best in all of us as we stop asking, “how do we win this war?”, and start answering the question, “what more must we lose?” And so we pray only for peace, knowing that praying for success in war carries with it the unspoken prayer for the brutal destruction of others.

After the words, a hush. After the songs, a silence. After the crowd, only the memory recalls the gathering. God grant us the depth for dedicaton to justice. God grant us the will to be apostles of peace. May God bless you and keep you always.

With all our love to all of you,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com



The Roberts Family 2005 Rock-n-Roll Christmas Revue

Looking back on a year filled with a wide variety of experiences, it was hard to know where to start. So let’s begin with Rock-n-Roll. Yes, you heard us, Rock-n-Roll . Now that might seem curious to some of you; maybe a little twisted, but you’ve known us for a long time so it can’t be a total surprise. 

You might ask yourself, “what kind of Rock-n-Roll ?” Was it Country Rock or Heavy Metal? New Wave or Folk Rock? Or maybe it was Adult Alternative Rock or Pop Rock? Nick, on the cusp of explosive teenage angst, has been a major influence on our reaffirmation of appreciation for musical expression. Looking back, we remembered fondly our first albums (Meet the Beatles for both me and Mike); and our first concerts (Credence Clearwater Revival at the Denver Coliseum for me and The Rolling Stones at Mammoth Gardens for Mike). Do you remember your first?
So what was it to be for Nick? Since you can’t get vinyl anymore, his first CD ended up being Smash Mouth. And then Rockmamanoff (that’s me) decided to take him and a friend to the Green Day “American Idiot” concert. And what a show it was! The band was awesome. George Bush has been great for their career. When there’s talk about music no longer having any strong, political messages, then someone isn’t listening to Green Day. Up next was Coldplay. That one fell to Dad (aka Ozzy Roberts - see picture). Another great concert, according to them. Finally, it was our turn and that just happened to be the Rolling Stones’ Bigger Bang tour right here in Charlottesville. So that’s where we were on October 6th, in ridiculously expensive seats, watching the geriatric gang singing along and standing in awe of that band’s longevity, spirit, energy, and their sheer love for what they do. Nick was there too (as was seemingly his whole 8th grade class) and was pretty impressed by the spectacle. Rock-n-Roll never dies.

We haven’t yet come up with an appropriate venue for the little ones, but I will not, repeat WILL NOT, take Sadie to see Jesse McCartney. I know - it’s only Rock-n-Roll - but that ain’t it.

So, going back and recapping the year. One early morning, a few days before Christmas, Sadie and Luke decided they needed to clean out the fireplace in order to build a new fire. Embers in the plastic trashcan. Small fire. Poured a couple of glasses of water into the trash can to put out the fire, and all that remained was for them to watch a little TV and wait for Dad to wake up so he could spend several hours with an Exacto knife and tweezers to separate the melted plastic from the melted carpet.

This year also included a trip home to Colorado to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday. We spent some wonderful time with family and friends. Highlights for the kids included trips to Elitch’s and the Royal Gorge. I rode as many rollercoasters as I could stand, but skipped the supine swing that launched you out over the Royal Gorge. Although I did watch the kids do it with a horrid fascination regarding my judgment and parenting skills.

The bad news for Nick is that he took a tumble off his brother’s skateboard and suffered a small break in his wrist. You may remember he did about the same several years ago jumping out of a swing. Back then, we waited 2 days to get him in to see if there was anything really wrong - this time we took him in to get the x-ray just 24 hours later. So I guess the good news is that we’ve improved our Crisis-Mode Parenting by a good 50%. Even with these moments of neglect, Nick continues to be aces in anyone’s book. He’s a great student and is becoming quite the guitar player. All that Rock-n-Roll influence I guess. He has grown tall and lean and exhibits only a slight disdain for his siblings and parents. More to come? Probably. You tend to expect more from your first child, so maybe we’ll get the full-blown sneering contempt from him yet.

Sadie talks in her sleep. Example: “Shit Ball - can I put those two words together?” Over the year she has also taken to the idea of being a ‘goth’ girl, though thankfully, we haven’t yet progressed to black hair and white geisha makeup. The overwhelming black in her wardrobe is enough. She hasn’t adopted the attitude but just loves the look. She continues to work diligently on her art and fashion and we continue diligently to point her back toward reading and spelling. Funniest remark this year: “I have a weird family. It all started in my babyhood, when Luke was peeing on everybody.”

Reiterating: Luke remains a force to be reckoned with. We keep hoping the mother ship will finally get word to Luke that he needs to behave more like the native humans. He loves Ramen noodles, soccer, football, and anything with the potential for grievous bodily injury. He tolerates school. Thank God it comes easily for him.

Some Luke-speak from this year:
Dad (trying to get Luke off the computer): Hey, Luke, come and join the living.
Luke: I did that once.
Dad: When?
Luke: In the 1970’s.

Luke: We’re having turkey for Thanksgiving, right Dad?
Dad: Yes
Luke: OK, but don’t put any of those inside parts in the dressing this time - I don’t like gerbils in my dressing.

Mike is ...
He did join the outside workforce for awhile, but over the course of a few months the acronym in the house became D-WOD (Dinner With Out Dad), so we made him come home.

Me?? I’m tired.

As always, stay safe. Hold yours close, pray for peace, make a joyful noise and dance to the music like there’s nobody watching.
MINSL
mrit@msn.com




2004 - All Wrapped Up

The original idea was to mail ourselves directly to your homes, but we ran into a few problems: Mike’s too tall (a first for him); I’m too wide (we won’t talk about that); Nick actually grew out of his box twice in three days; Sadie insisted on including 37 of her closest friends; and no amount of cajoling, threatening or duct tape was going to make Luke stay put. So once again we’ll have to make do by sending our annual missive and hoping it’s not too poor a substitute for being there with you. 

We start writing these things just before Christmas each year, so we’ll pick up the story on Christmas Day 2003, which ranks among the top five strangest days of our family life. Having no actual family here and being unable to insinuate ourselves into anyone else’s family for the day, we decided to take in a movie and have a nice dinner at a restaurant. We went to see “Master and Commander” - lots of fast action, high drama; and fighting and screaming and bloodshed; a perfect movie for the Season of Peace and Goodwill. Anyway, because we hadn’t spent even a moment considering the probabilities, or maybe because we’d forgotten where we live, we found that everything in Charlottesville was closed with the exception of 7-11 and Subway Sandwiches. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize just how bad a plan is; especially when you’re in the middle of executing it perfectly. So we went with the sandwiches. We were the only people in the place besides the one poor schlub behind the counter. A situation exactly like this had to have occurred the first time someone used the word pathetic. Mike thought it was kind of fun and the kids didn’t seem at all bothered (go figure). I just sat there trying desperately to keep my lower lip from quivering. I’m hoping for something a little better this year. 

The rest of the year couldn’t help but improve, right? You be the judge. Michael left his position at GSM in the Spring and immersed himself in a volunteer position with the Virginia Democrats. He was assigned the job of precinct captain and spent the next 6 months working hard to get President Fubar out of the White House. Okay, I know some of you are asking “what was he thinking?”, but hey, he only missed by a few million votes, y’know. Even though we ended up in a Red state, we are consoled by the knowledge that our county is now Blue and we are surrounded by a great bunch of immoral, unprincipled and valueless friends. Mike’s rehab is going well by the way, and he’ll be allowed to start reading the OP/ED pages again shortly after the inauguration. 

It was a big year for me as well. I turned 50. Well, that’s what one of my birth certificates says. I’m still a bit uncertain about the truth. There was a time (I believe I was 17) when I doctored my birth certificate so that it appeared I was 21. I may have neglected to change it back, which makes me 46 - and quite possibly a felon. To celebrate this appalling milestone (the birthday; not the prospect of serving time in a federal prison with Martha), we went on a cruise with good friends Mike and Janet in May on a beautiful two-masted schooner; just the 4 of us plus the crew. We got lucky and caught up with Captain Matt, who skippered for us back in 2000, so it was quite the reunion to sail with him again. Michelle, his new first mate, was a delight, a great cook and fairly well known in the islands for her guitar and singing abilities. Not to be outdone (or more likely because he’d had plenty to drink), Michael took to the stage at a place aptly named The Last Resort to perform a stirring rendition of Randy Newman’s “Political Science”. The irreverent and/or inebriated (ie: Blue) people in the audience got quite a kick out of it.

Summer was spent working, hanging out down by the pool and taking the kids to camp. Both of my brothers and their families paid us visits. All the cousins enjoyed themselves and got along just great, so we never had to separate anyone or move people out to motels or send anyone back to Colorado early and that made for some good adult time too. 

That brings us up to the last part of this year. Mom and Dad flew out for my birthday in October. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was really only 46. They’re getting along in years so I didn’t want to confuse them unduly. Laurel, my soul sister from Denver, also flew out. I didn’t mention to her either that I believed I was really 46. I mean, she really did turn 50 this year and it would’ve depressed her.

Nick is hitting his teens with all the changes that come with that process. He has easily grown four inches in the last year, his hair has gone from straight to curly and his voice has begun searching for a place to settle. He has a great group of friends and spends his free time with them making movies. We have yet to see any of these epics, so who knows what’s actually going on. He does well in school and plays piano beautifully. We couldn’t ask for a better kid. Well, maybe he could keep his room a little cleaner.

Sadie works very hard at school. She has to because she’s still not altogether sure why school has to include academics, which only serve to distract from an otherwise perfectly lovely all-day social event. She puts up with the work requirements as long as no one pushes her too hard to read too much. If we can find her a teacher who can also manage some tea and finger sandwiches every afternoon, we’ll have it made. 

Luke is still a force-of-nature kind of kid. We think the Luke Affect could be a fitting subject for the Weather Channel or National Geographic. School comes easy for him, and he loves to play football and soccer - actually he loves anything that involves running fast and crashing into things. His piano is coming along and his favorite phrase is “why doesn’t anybody listen to me?” We do listen to him, but it’s difficult to follow through with his requests when they include constructing a spud gun big enough to launch him over the house and into the pool. Just once I’d like to play a simple game of hopscotch with him.

Finally, I don’t want to end on a somber note, but I think it’s important to remember that there are those who have to go into the holidays with the family they have, not with the family they wish they had. We pray for the swift, safe return of loved ones; we hold all of them and all of you close in our hearts, and wish you all the very best in every way.

That’s a wrap!

Love,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com


2003
There’s an old First Nations adage that says, "When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it." There’s a new Earlysville adage that says, “When a Weber Gas Grill is left out over night, the bear eats it – and the eagle and the deer won’t even call you up to tell you about it.” 

Now, bears require a high caloric intake. A black bear will eat 45 pounds of food per day during the summer. This bear also has a taste for Meyer’s Quality Songbird Mix birdseed, and certain home furnishings. We figure the bear’s into us for about $3,000 if you count the food, the grill and multiple bird feeders. We’re not sure if he likes the crunchy texture of the plastic or if he needs a little extra fiber, but judging from the scat he’s been leaving in the yard, he’s not overly selective. So, the big news is that we have a bear. And the good news / bad news part is that he hasn’t eaten any of the kids yet (that’s good) and according to the Game Warden we’re not allowed to get rid of him (that’s bad). The warden’s advice to us during our weekly calls is to remove the food sources and learn to co-exist with the bear. So, in addition to eliminating the bird feeders and the grill, our children are no longer allowed out of doors alone after dark. Michael has stung the guy twice with the pellet gun causing him to fall off the deck railing and run away (the bear, not the warden). So now we have an angry, possibly vindictive bear who apparently qualifies under the witness protection program because we’re not allowed to catch him, relocate him or shoot him. Large fines for “Improper Wildlife Harvest” would be imposed upon us. However, the warden (not the bear) suggested we try shooting him (the bear, not the warden) with a paintball gun; or we could try a shotgun loaded with double-aught rubber pellets. So maybe we’ll just shoot him after all – the warden, not the bear.

Aside from our Close Encounters of the Ursine Kind, our news is bear-ly interesting this year. The kids continue to baffle us with a bear-able mix of cute and creepy. They missed a bunch of school at the beginning of the year owing to the “grizzly” weather that descended upon us from February through March. (Look, if we can live with the bear, you can live with a few bad puns, OK?)

Sadie has some kind of scissors Jones. She cuts things. It’s more than a hobby because she’s unable to stop; could be time for an intervention. Luke has a deep and abiding hatred of socks. He insists on wearing them inside out because “those bumply lines across the end make my feet feel bad”. Sadie decided to help him out one morning, but Michael preempted the operation just before the socks and/or Luke became toeless. Nick has a sibling problem. He’s recently started suggesting that they all go outside to play. We’re convinced this is a healthy improvement in Nick’s attitude toward physical activity, but there’s always the nagging suspicion that he’s out there on a bear hunt, using his brother for bait.

Kid quotes:
· Luke (sidling into the room like a pint-sized John Wayne):
“So boys, what’s on the menu tonight?”

· Sadie: (when asked what she wants on her toast):
“Jelly – no butter, You know, Dad – like when you say rocks no salt”
To her mom: “Is it okay if I call you Bob?”

· Nick, when asked about anything at anytime for any reason: “Huh?”

In March we attended the wedding of our piano teacher and the kids got to try out a new sitter who became known as Jenny from Jupiter. The episode quickly devolved into a sad parody of a credit card commercial.

Not knowing that metal and microwaves don’t mix…$189
Trying to heat up a tortilla topped with cheese in the toaster… $49.
Burning the Campbell’s tomato soup and then telling Sadie that the black flakey things floating in the bowl must be pieces of sun-dried tomato… $1.25.
Inability to fathom the mysterious depths of Tupperware technology…PRICELESS

We rode the rails to New York City over Memorial Day to see my mom sing in a choir at Carnegie Hall. We did as many touristy things as we could, and it was a marvelous trip except for the weather, which sucked. Getting around New York can be a lot of work, but Metro passes gave us easy access to the subways and buses, which made the job of herding the children a bit more manageable. Certain behaviors while in the subway stations became such conditioned responses for me, that I still feel the urge to scream, “Stay behind the yellow line!” whenever I hear a train.

July found us in Colorado for my dad’s 100th birthday. No, wait, Bill has a special formula for calculating his age. I think it’s actually 296 in Bill Years, but only about 80 for people. Seems longer somehow.

October was a great month. Laurel and Shubel came out for my birthday and we danced (well), drank (a lot), played golf (poorly) and ate like under-sized Sumo wrestlers.

Now what would our Christmas letter be without a cat story or two. After Buzzy’s demise last year, Orphy played solo for several months before meeting a slightly more dignified end at the vet’s office. He did seem pretty jumpy after we bought that new picnic cooler, even for a 20-year old cat who can’t hear or see very well. We stayed petless (except for the bear) until October. Then we got the BAD cats. An all-black one who never came out of the pet carrier and an idiot calico who shat throughout the dining room. They were obviously defective, so we returned one, having misplaced the other – no really – she just disappeared. So we adopted a new pair; brothers Monty and Romeo. Monty sleeps in the sink and Romeo has a foot fetish. Psychotic is bad, but strange is okay. They’re a good fit for this group.

Well, I imagine you are barely awake by now and another year has come and gone since you started reading this letter. Stay warm, hold each other close, and remember that the only thing you can count on a bear for is unpredictability. So goes life.

Love to you and yours,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com





2002


It was terrible when the cat died – kinda like watching your 401(k). Y’know - you invest, you nurture, you try to look after them…and what happens? They crap out anyway.

The year started out like any other year. I continued to work for the mad Italian. Mike continued to explore the relative merits of Paycheck vs Equity with a variety of companies. Sadie and Luke were well on their way to graduation from pre-school and Nick was just rollin’ along singin’ a song in 4th grade.

All good and normal things must come to an end, and our good and normal days did exactly that. We cashed in on the Money Pit by selling our lovely homestead to an unsuspecting Texan. Of course then we were required to find a new homestead. Finding nothing much on the market, we ended up with what seemed to be the next lovely place. And then we heard the unmistakable thud of the other shoe dropping. Walking through the newly empty house we discovered that there were several Renuzit’s, Airwick’s, Country Fresh Night Lights, etc in every room. It might occur to normal people that the sellers were trying to cover something up, but we barely gave it second thought until we discovered the stains on the rugs upstairs. So of course we had to have the carpets cleaned before moving in. However, the unmistakable odor of cat pee (Aha!) wafting dramatically into every airspace in a 10 mile radius suggested the threat of a citation from the EPA. So, pulling up all the old carpet and laying down new carpet should be a fairly easy fix, right? Wrong, kitty litter breath! We spent about a year and a half in May with most of the upstairs furniture piled in our bedroom, and all of the furniture from the family room stuffed into the kitchen. The kids slept (in blissful oblivion) in the basement while I slept on the doily-sized space on the master bed that wasn’t occupied by stacks of dresser drawers or boxes of toys with sharp edges. Michael slept on part of the futon in the kitchen that was crammed up against a wall. I felt like I was sleeping in a box and Mike said it was like sleeping in a toy submarine. But hey - we coped, we managed, we ate supper standing in the garage. The only real problem occurred while I was searching for a pair of underwear that was in a drawer at the bottom of one of the stacks. I was so excited to find a clean pair I jumped up in celebration and hit my head on the whirling blades of the ceiling fan - out cold. Injury to anything but my pride was minor. The insanity of the carpeting and tiling project went on until late last week. Mismatched grout, bad carpet seams; and the sheer drop-offs from one floor surface to another made it seem like we’d moved into a split-level. Our “representative” had one very successful meeting with the contractor, and we expect the Conspiracy to Commit Murder charges will be dropped once the judge hears our story.

Summer arrived about the same time as our first-ever Pool Service bill. After selling a few heirlooms we enjoyed many hours (and 6-packs) pool-side. We fully intend to continue making good use of the facilities until we realize a return on the investment, dammit. (see picture).

My mom had a cardiac event in early July, resulting in a quadruple bypass. Too much butter is my diagnosis. She’s doing great now. While she was recuperating we were back in Colorado for my 30th class reunion (grade school of course). We had a great time. So many classmates were just as wild as I remembered.

In late summer we lost our 17 year old cat Buzzy in a tragic turn of events during a game of hide and seek. He thought the kids had found him the perfect hiding place in that picnic cooler, but the game was interrupted and he wasn’t discovered until a couple of days later. We’re hoping to recoup some of the cost of therapy by booking ourselves on a segment of Martha Stewart’s new cable show – “Family Pets: The Other White Meat”.

September - and all the kids are finally in REAL school. The school bus bringeth and the school bus taketh away. The school bus is a wonderful thing. And it stops right in front of our house! The move put Nick in a different school district, so he’s had to make new friends (more therapy?). Sadie and Luke seem to have acclimated well. We’re still a little reluctant about playdates with kids who have pets.

In October, I went to Vegas for a conference. My best friend Laurel met me there. We had a great time. Saw only one show, a Rat Pack tribute – not bad, but Dean, Frank, Sammy and Generalissimo Francisco Franco are all still dead. The blue-hairs didn’t seem to mind – maybe they just didn’t notice.

My mom and dad came to see us for Thanksgiving because the rest of the family left town. Brother Mike and Vicki and the girls went to Australia for the solar eclipse (Jagger flew up to Nava Scotia – he prob’ly thinks this letter’s about him). Brother Will and Mary and the boys went for the “Family Charter Plan”. 19 in-laws in a 2-bedroom condo in Florida. Hey – at least it was on the beach. Mom seems to have been struck by some kind of Old World Impulse, bringing her own cheese with her on the plane. We didn’t ask.

After some fits and starts, Michael is more GAINFULLY employed. He was shocked to discover that a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers are now passé and considered inappropriate business attire.

Luke has a thing for the telephone. Sometimes he takes the phone to school, thinking that if he doesn’t like it he can just call somebody to come pick him up. We finally discovered this one evening when we heard the open-line signal emanating from his backpack. He has a well-developed sense of the bizarre. One day (I’m hoping it was a weekend), I wore the same clothes as the day before. Luke said “Mom, you look just like you do tomorrow”.

Sadie is great at her letters and numbers, but spends a lot of time “doin’ the booty dance”. With or without clothes. Some of her routines make Blaze Starr look like she needs lessons. It’s hard for us to imagine Sadie having room on her schedule for silly things (like school, food, breathing) because she’s constantly changing wardrobe or fixing her makeup. She’s getting better at it, but sometimes she looks like a Kabuki dancer with a bad hangover on a hot day.

Nick sneers a lot. I worry he’s developing some Pre-Teen Attitude, but he says he’s just exercising his lip. I think I’ll stay worried. He got a good lesson in Free Enterprise this year at summer camp. He and a couple of buddies had a nice Gameboy Rental business going – complete with synergistic partnerships with other kids who had extra game cartridges. They did quite well for a few days, but then got another lesson (Governmental Regulation of a Monopoly) when the counselors shut them down – something about predatory business practices.

So another year has fit neatly onto a couple of pages. We hope your days are safe and happy, that you enjoy a glorious Christmas and that the new year brings us all some real peace.

With the best of our love,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com




2001 An Odyssey

What a long, strange trip this year has been. Luke trips over his words, Sadie trips over her feet and we’re all tripping over the garbage that the freakin’ disposal company never comes to pick up. Long story short our collection day was changed from Wednesday to Thursday and now it seems the driver has lost his way completely.

But the important news is: I’m pregnant! Aha! Got your attention didn’t I? Actually there are no new arrivals expected but we’ve all put on a few pounds. At least the kids can compensate by growing taller - Mike and I will have to settle for wider, and try to compensate with wardrobe. I see lots of black and vertical stripes in our future.

Nick is a great student, a rock-solid fullback for his soccer team (he’s not overly mobile, but he’s effective enough to become known as The Great Wall). He’s evolving well as a piano player and as a brother he tenders his resignation on a daily basis. He can quote most of the dialogue from Shrek and expects to see Harry Potter another twelve times. Although we’ll need to work on the concept of “pacing yourself”. The last outing found him puking all over his buddy’s car and he was summarily dispatched to our door. We can only hope this isn’t some kind of cosmic foreshadowing of teenage events to come.

Luke is a force of nature, a force of one, a force to be reckoned with and a tour de force all rolled into one bright-eyed package. The kid’s got two speeds – asleep and Gravitational Escape Velocity. If it’s too hot to touch, he picks it up. If it’s too deep, he jumps right in. If it bites, he grabs it by the ears. If it looks like food or even remotely resembles something that used to be food, he eats it. And too many others to continue listing. As Luke would say, “You get the picture?”

Sadie has pledged her troth to every male singer she hears on the radio – some of whom are already dead. The untimely demise of George Harrison put her in a funk for three days. She wraps her arms around practically every man she knows and they are immediately wrapped around her little finger. We’ve made the first deposits to The Sisters of Perpetual Chastity School for Girls in northern Alberta and we think we have a fair shot at early enrollment.

Mike is working on the start-up of his new company. Lots of sweat equity so far but the payoff will be sweet when it happens. It keeps him at home and out of trouble. We went to Colorado for his 30th class reunion in June. What a riot. The music was provided by a wannabe Motown band with a lead singer who wasn’t quite up to it. Barely-recognizable covers of Smokey Robinson, The Jackson Five and Johnny Mathis just didn’t give us that 1971 kind of feeling. But seeing so many old friends was a kick, and we especially enjoyed hanging with Doug, who can make you believe it may actually be 1971.

I finished my first year of full-time work at the University of Virginia. I have just transferred into another position at the Digestive Health Center of Excellence, working for an Italian physician who is a complete maniac. My new tag line is “Help, I’m surrounded by ulcers and assholes.” This should be fun. We’ll be off to Colorado again this coming summer for my 30th.

We are trying to sell our house and move into a neighborhood of some sort. Out here in the country the kids don’t have much opportunity to ride bikes and rollerskate unless Mike piles them all into the truck and drives them somewhere to do it, and that just doesn’t seem right. Plus the novelty of going down to the stream and breaking up the beaver dam is wearing off, and it’s only a matter of time before Luke decides to challenge the neighborhood black bear for the right to scatter all that garbage we can’t get picked up. Of course we’ll miss some of our more colorful neighbors. First there’s Janet, who has wolfhounds and never refers to the female as anything but “the bitch”. We’re not sure if it’s just a canine gender reference or a real problem with the dog’s attitude. Mostly, we’ll be sad to leave Chris, an Associate Professor at a prominent university here in central Virginia (that shall remain nameless) who recently announced he needs us to call him Christine. With the breasts of a goddess and the fashion sense of Helen Keller on acid, the entire women’s movement could be in serious jeopardy.

As always, we hope this finds you and yours healthy and happy, safe and sound. September 11th changed all our lives in big and little ways that we probably won’t even know about for years. So keep your love alive and pray for the better angels of our nature.

Peace,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com



2000 has been a year filled with ups and downs… highs and lows …thrills and spills…laughter and tears…fun and chores… the list of yins and yangs could go on and off. Highlights, should you choose to continue reading, are below. Then again you might say to hell with it and just fix yourself a cocktail. Actually, a cocktail sounds pretty good right about now. Or maybe not. Where were we (was I, are they)? 

Let’s start with the kids.

Nick is 8 going on 35, Sadie is 3 going on 24, and Luke (according to his father) is 3 going on a trip to the moon if he keeps this up. Their attitudes, language and mannerisms all support this view. If we were to take their behavior as it is today, and project it onto their lives when they’re older it’s easy to imagine certain scenarios.

Nick would be a full professor at an Ivy League school teaching a new degree program (which he developed himself) called Speculative Anthropology: Fictional Truth in Arts and Letters of the Once and Future History of the World. He has already created his own universe which is situated under his bed somewhere and has established an entire culture for it – complete with language, national anthem, creation myth and choreographed ceremonies for “his people”. The ceremonies are very democratic and inclusive events where you can say bad words if you want to. Aside from that he enjoys the 3rd grade, sort of. He plays soccer, sort of. He practices piano, sort of. He alternately adores and abhors his little brother and sister, depending on their location relative to his room and his stuff.

Sadie, at 24, would be finishing her 2nd or 3rd degree at her 4th or 5th college without ever having taken any actual classes, but somehow having people standing in line to provide financing and whatever else she needs right now. She may well be on stage, as she is quite the little singer. A recent bedtime lullaby for her doll was something about “what a sweet little donkey-head you are, so close your eyes and sleep and dream about the monsters that come and eat your feet”. The tune was something like a Madrigal ballad, and while the lyrics were a bit iffy, the overall effect was eerily pleasing. And that’s her hook. She can make the most horrific act seem reasonable. If she was Jeffrey Dahmer’s lawyer, she could’ve gotten the rap reduced to Operating a Restaurant Without a Permit.

Luke at 20 will be the Ultimate Frat Boy – Mr Full-Tilt-Boogie-Til-Ya-Puke – probably at an obscure little college in Idaho, on a natural-aptitude scholarship to study Modern Homemade Explosives . His philosophy is simple: find, test and breach the limits of propriety. He never walks into a room – or out of it, for that matter. Come to think of it, he never walks anywhere. The word ’bursting’ comes to mind. He’ll storm down the hall into the family room, vault over the back of the couch and do a cannonball onto your lap. He loves tools, but not if you’re supposed to eat with them. Spaghetti sauce makes a pretty good paint. If it’s standing up, knock it down. If it’s lying down, stand it up and then knock it down. If you can pick it up, it’s a hammer. If you can’t pick it up, it’s an anvil.

What year-end wrap-up letter would be complete without a brief description of trips to the doctor? 40% of the family required Emergent Care this year, indicating a decidedly upward trend for that sector. Sadie took a headlong tumble into a bookcase at school, and got 5 teensy-tiny stitches in her forehead. Not to be outdone, Luke got 17 UNBELIEVABLY BIG stitches in his scalp after falling down the side of a hill onto the driveway when he and Mike were trying to get away from a yellow-jacket nest of epic proportions. It was one of those slow-motion, potentially catastrophic events that you just know is going to ruin your whole weekend.  Luke’s head seemed to split like an over-ripe tomato - all the way to the skull.  Three inches of gaping wound and what looked like gallons of blood. And how did our little tough guy handle this, you ask? He wasn’t knocked out, he barely cried, and just wanted to know, “What happened back there, Mom?” Once he was all patched up and back at home, he told his dad that if that ever happened again, “You get a timeout fer dat, Dad”. And just to make it seem even creepier than it already was, he’s developed math skills that weren’t there before. Weird, huh? Oh yeah, Mike was in on this fall too. His therapy is going well, but while he’s nearly regained the ability to speak, and control of his bowels is returning, it seems he will always have an annoying facial tic.

Careers:
Michael, after 13+ years at Micromedex, finally decided he’d had enough of the ‘New and (NOT) Improved Management’ and left to pursue other interests. After a slight detour with a start-up company that turned out to be a lot less interesting than it appeared to be, he has begun his search in earnest for a position with small hours, big money, huge benefits and a European vacation policy. We’re very optimistic.

And me? After a year of pursuing domestic interests , I have rejoined the workforce and will soon take up residence in Cubeville (Finance Dept) at the University of Virginia. I’ve also changed my name to DILRENE (in recognition of my cousin DILBERT). My home and my family will be all the better for this. I found that even though there was a tremendous number of projects that needed to be done (see last year’s letter), I lacked the inclination even to list most of them.

Trips:
Michael and I took a much-needed spiritually-revitalizing trip in May to the British Virgin Islands. 9 days on a sail-boat with some good friends. Sunrise each morning was spectacular and because we were up so early, we considered it completely appropriate to start drinking shortly after breakfast. Excessive and Decadent?  Absolutely!  Did we make a spectacle of ourselves?  Of course!  That was mostly the point of the exercise, and since we rarely went ashore, who’s to know anyway?  We do have pictures, tho’. And the ones of the food fight on day 5 turned out quite well.

In August I took the kids to Colorado for three and a half weeks. It was great to see family and friends. I had my annual spa and golf days with my best friend Laurel. The kids enjoyed swimming and playing with their cousins and friends. They got to hang out at the Denver Southside Metro firestation for a whole day compliments of an old friend, Greg. I’m sure for the kids the vacation ended too soon. I had a slightly skewed opinion. My dad was actually concerned that I was going out for drinks with the girls far too late (9:30). And when I had dinner with Doug, a high school friend, his first question was whether or not Doug was coming up to the door to get me and his second question was whether or not Mike knew. Needless to say it was waaaay too much like being 16 and I was happy to leave home again.

Our best wishes and dreams to you all as always,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com



Y2K – Millennium – 1999 - The Century Mark - just another year - 
Call it what you will…a new year is here and it’s a big one 

It seems we’ve spent the year chasing kids, trying to finish up some house projects, caring for pets and family and occasionally finding some time for ourselves (which usually means a trip to Home Depot without the children). Those romantic strolls between plumbing supplies and the new chain saw display can really put the spark back in your marriage.

In February, my mom inadvertently head-butted my dad’s car in the church parking lot. Her story is that she tripped on the steps and “fell”, but by her own admission she was never overly fond of that car, so the investigation continues. Anyway, after the surgery, I went to Colorado to help out because she was pretty well incapacitated. Actually, so’s my dad, though in a slightly different way. His heart’s in the right place but he can be pretty goofy. Mom would send him to the store for 3 cartons of cheesecake yogurt, and he would return promptly with 3 Sara Lee cheesecakes. She’s still mending and in physical therapy, but on the bright side she always has plenty of cheesecake for when people come to visit, and the insurance company bought her a really nice hot tub.

We all went to Texas in April for our niece’s wedding. Nick was the ring-bearer and he cut quite the dashing figure in his tuxedo. Flying out there was uneventful even with the three kids, but the return trip started with sideways rain and 2 hours on the plane, on the ground waiting for a hole in the weather. When we finally got in the air, they had to fly so far around the storm that we ended up having to stop in Memphis for gas. We might just walk next time.

Nick is so far gone with this Pokemon craze that I think an intervention may be in order. He’s doing well in school, receiving a special Citation for Trustworthiness and making the Odyssey of the Mind team. He played soccer last spring and learned to swim (ie: not drown) over the summer. He practices his reading skills by announcing signs as we drive along. This can be a bit of a challenge as we try to explain why someone thought it necessary to make hanging out at the 7-11 store illegal. (Dad, what does ‘No Loitering’ mean ?)

Luke is Mike. At least that’s what we think. He refuses to let anyone do anything for him. He laughs when he gets in trouble and then repeats the infraction to see just how far we’re willing to go to stop him this time. He wants to be running, jumping, crashing, rolling, kicking and anything else he can think of that’s dangerous, physical or loud. So far no stitches or broken bones but I have the ice maker tuned up every month just in case.

Sadie is – well - Sadie. The Smiling Assassin. She’s funny and charming and contrary. Characteristics that, when taken together make it hard to maintain the appropriate parental authority. Her dad says,”She has a way of looking at me that makes me feel like a jerk, and proud to be one”. She adores her big brother (partly because he knows how to work the VCR). And she enjoys hanging out in her bean bag chair, quietly singing the Barney Song while twisting the heads off of her dolls.

Mike still gets lost a lot while traveling and selling for Micromedex, so there’s really not much new in that. Except that we finished the garage/office addition in June. It was a simple little project we started in November that quickly evolved to resemble a second career. Michael now has to make a commute of almost 40 feet to and from the coffee maker, but it’s wonderful to reclaim the room he was using. The only oversight was not putting a bathroom in his office. He usually makes it to the house but sometimes he just pees out the window, claiming “it’s an effective groundhog deterrent”.

Mike’s brother John, along with Lanie and Hally were here in July for the drought. We had a great time as long as we stayed where it was air-conditioned. It rained one afternoon for about 11 seconds, which was just long enough to strip down and dance naked on the deck. That was the old deck – the old and splintery deck – the old and splintery deck that we quickly discovered was not very good for naked dancing. We now have a new deck. It was a simple little project…

Replacing the deck led to closing in part of it as a screened porch, which led to finishing a room in the basement for the kids, which led to more landscaping, which led me to quit work. I guess you had to be here. It all seemed so logical until I had to write it down. Since becoming a homemaker my accomplishments include organizing the tupperware shelf and color-coding all the closets and making soup and then taking a nap and alphabetizing the spice rack and typing up a quick-reference channel guide for the satellite TV and I’m almost finished separating the white specks from the black specks in the pepper shaker. It’s a lot harder than it looks. I even found www.e-bon-bon.com on the web. The weekly delivery subscription option is really convenient. Tomorrow I start resurfacing the driveway. It was a simple little project…

We’re very much looking forward to the holidays. Some of you we’ll see and some of you we won’t, but we send our love to you all, and we keep all of you close in our hearts.

All our best,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com




1998
Christmas is coming and the children are getting restless

It still seems odd that the plural form of child is part of our daily lexicon. You’d think that after all the extra laundry, an extraordinary amount of dishes, countless baths, dried food under the kitchen table and splattered on the windows, and the impromptu wrestling matches at the doctor’s office, it would have sunk in by now that we really do have 3 kids. Michael and I have tried to maintain a certain state of denial but it’s not working all that well. When you’re on the phone and one of your children has wedged himself between the stove and the cabinet, another is sitting on a very angry cat and the oldest, who you’d expect to show some maturity, is crawling around on all fours howling and growling like a rabid coyote, you’d think you’d have sense enough to excuse yourself and hang up…but no…I was trying to show some pluck by continuing the conversation when the caller asked, “Is this a bad time?”. I could only think, “Is there a good time?” It’s a slow and incremental process, but you really do grow accustomed to the bedlam. 

All kidding aside - actually I guess I’m not kidding - our reality is probably everybody else’s worst nightmare, so I’ll stop trying to scare you in to a life-time membership in Planned Parenthood.

Sadie and Luke are, for the most part, the funniest people we’ve come to know in a long while. Their individual personalities have really blossomed this year. Luke is a daredevil and seems destined for the WWF Tour. He loves to walk off the edge of anything as long as you say Ready, Set, Go. And his impish persistence in the face of our disciplinary efforts would test the patience of Job. Sadie is The Priss Princess. She drapes herself with all manner of adornment (scarves, dishtowels, throw rugs, rubber snakes, etc) and struts around like a cabaret singer. Neither of them speaks a language we understand and we’re pretty sure there’s purpose to that, as they communicate with each other quite well. They adore their big brother and tolerate their parents. Nick is growing up fast. He takes great care of his brother and sister except when they torment him (we thought it was supposed to be the other way around) and then he cries because one of them is pulling his hair, pinching him, sitting on his head or taking his stuff. Right now, Nick’s trying to decide if he should be an archeologist, photographer, marine biologist or a Power Ranger when he grows up. Pretty broad range.

The most frightening aspect of this burgeoning family is all of the parental blather we never would have believed would be coming out of our mouths. You know the ones:

· Quit picking on him/her/them/it/me
· Don’t eat the rocks
· If you can’t play nice, you’re all going to bed right now
· That’s your dinner plate, not an anvil
· I’m gonna pull this car over
· It’s not your turn
· Don’t throw your food
· Don’t play in the toilet
· Don’t run in the house
· Don’t put the cat’s tail in the waffle iron
· Take it outside (it being either the chaos in general, some woodland creature or the biological by-product thereof)

That’s our life as it stands right now. The year has been filled with much joy as well as tremendous sadness. Michael’s sister Leslie lost her courageous battle with cancer in January. As was Leslie’s way, she didn’t let any of us know that the fight was drawing to a close. As a Special Ed teacher, Leslie’s children were so important to her that she continued to work full-time until the end. She just wouldn’t want her troubles to be inconvenient or difficult for anyone else. We were all blessed to have her in our lives and it still doesn’t seem possible she is gone. Take whatever time you can to be with family and friends. It is as they say, fleeting.

We will be going to Texas again in April for Leslie and Don’s daughter’s wedding. Amy will be marrying a great guy named Jared something or another. Gee, we got to know him real well, huh? He seems okay and we’re pretty sure he has a last name. This will be only the second time we have flown anywhere with the whole tribe. We went to Colorado this summer for my father’s 75th birthday and flying was to say the least an adventure. Especially when you start the trek by showing up at the airport with five people and four tickets. It’s a long story and there is absolutely no way I’m re-living it by re-telling it.

One last item, I keep forgetting to note our E-mail address when I send out these cards. If you have access to E-mail we would love to hear from you. Our address is: mrit@msn.com

Love to you all this holiday season; remember to stick together, share whatever you have, hold hands when you cross the street, and have a great New Year.
MINSL





1997 WOW!!
Okay, so we started out the year with just the three of us. It was quiet and the pregnancy was moving along pretty smooth. I was just kind of big at 165 pounds. Then we moved. Big mistake. But who knew that moving boxes caused water retention? If I remember correctly I retained enough water to change my weight from 165 to 177. Not easy, but hey, I love a challenge. With the move behind us we settled in for the winter and waited. February was a month of weekly non-stress tests and ultrasounds. Everything was continuing smoothly. I lost the water but gained fat pounds so I managed to stay at 175. Mike was on the road, I continued working, Nick was still at daycare. Everything was still the same. Then came March. I got bigger. By the end of the month I was easily 187. My mother arrived tae last week and we started preparing for the arrival of the twins. Room ready, bottles bought, diapers stocked, etc. I was ready April 1 but the doctor said more time. We ended up releasing (c-section) the two on April 9th. Before the birth I weighed in at 191. Sadie Grace Christina was born first and weighed 5lbs 9ozs. Lucas Alexander Noah was born second and weighed 7lbs 7oz. Both were healthy and ready to go home by the 12th. We ended up being 11 days short of the due date. 

Now there are five of us and is it ever insane. My mother stayed with us until the end of April and then returned to Colorado. We muddled our way through May and part ox June. My best friend Laurel came in early June and stayed for five days and then my mom and dad returned. Thankfully we had dad until the 4th of July and mom until the end of July. We still didn’t have babies who slept through the night but that too would come to pass.

Sadie and Luke are now eight months old. They crawl, pull up, yammer, eat jar food, teethe and in general exhaust us. They are a handful and a delight and at least they are 'two' and not 'seven.' They sleep from 7pm-5:30am and then are raring to go. They attend the same daycare that Nick went to for so many years. It's close to my work at the hospital and they have a good program.

Nick played T-ball this summer and did very well. He also took swimming lessons and has learned why you don't breathe in when you are under water. He started Kindergarten this fall and rides the bus to school which is a very big deal. He has made some new friends so the transition from his daycare into regular school has gone well. He still wants to stay up too late and then not get up in the morning. Just like his dad. One tooth is loose (another big deal.)

Speaking of Mike, he's still hanging around. He's got a lot more kids now so he has to. He continues his work with Micromedex. We all stay busy. We have a 'B' checklist in the morning that goes something like: babies, blankets, binkies, burp rags, buckets (car seats), bottles, backup (clothes) and big brother. BOY!

Love to all,
MINSL
mrit@msn.com


1988 - Prototype