Happy Holidays!

It’s been a year to remember – a year of firsts and a year of life lessons.  On with the update…

Jeffrey is 9 ½ and in 4th grade.  Sports and guitar are still his passions.  Each year I am more aware that the day will come sooner rather than later that he will beat me at sports.  And, I do not take that lightly.  Let it be documented that as of now, I can still beat him at Horse; and I can throw a baseball farther than him.  But, I will acquiesce that he can throw a better spiral than me and he is almost as good as me in golf.  Jeffrey loves school and his teacher.  We are thrilled with his energy and eagerness to learn.  A big first for Jeffrey this year was going away to summer camp for 2 weeks.  Camp Champions is in Austin, TX and our friends, Steve and Susie Baskin are the owners.  Jeffrey came home already signed up for next summer.  He also came home more appreciative and somehow more mature.  The impact of the camp was clear during his school conference when we saw writing samples and projects that focused on his camp experience.  Relying on himself to make decisions and taking risks on his own (whether it was deciding to put on a clean pair of underwear every morning, or trying to water ski), trusting new people and making friends on his own, seemed to build his character in a way that was a fabulous complement to “life at home”.  But, the best thing about camp was that it was 2 weeks of good, old fashioned fun!  Imagine a child’s face the first time they see Disneyland; this is what I saw in Jeffrey.  Seeing the massive climbing wall, the lake, cabins, basketball court, football field and the famous Glob was like walking through Main Street heading towards Cinderella’s Castle.  After a school year of scheduled activities and practices, sleep away camp was perfect!  (Steve and Susie, my holiday letters are copyrighted and cannot be used for camp marketing purposes – unless you let me try the climbing wall and play Ga next year J.)

Eva is 7 ½ and in 2nd grade.  She also enjoys school and loves her teacher.  She plays soccer, basketball, golf, softball and participates in choir.  She tried hip hop for the first time this year and really likes it.  She still loves to sing and dance, and has the highest score in the family karaoke contests.  (96 is the highest score, 8 is the lowest – John says he was really trying.)  Eva’s brain seems to work in melody and rhythm.  We are all so used to her singing and dancing that it is below the din of our usual family chaos.  Learning hip hop has added much amusement to our daily life.  Eva and I went to Old Navy this week to buy pants.  As we walk into the store with dance music blaring, her body starts to gyrate.  She is almost in a trance, like an undercover agent on a mission listening to her iPod.  When I say, “Good move, Eva”, she immediately stops seeming to realize only then that she is dancing in public.   We move to the fitting rooms and the music is playing full blast.  I have never had a more difficult time trying clothes on a child.  The minute we closed the door to the stall and she saw the mirror, her body would not stop moving.  Attempts to capture a leg and avoid quick arm movements that originate from the shoulders, with pants in hand, had me laughing and crying.

Marena and Vivian are 4 ½ and in their last year of preschool.  They enjoy music class and soccer, and tried ballet for the first time.  They want to play basketball and take skating lessons, but my Outlook calendar might spontaneously combust.  Unlike previous years when I was waiting for them to sleep through the night, or stop breastfeeding, or stop using diapers; there is nothing I am wanting them to get over.  There are, of course, aggravating moments, but if you stop for two minutes it will inevitably make you smile or laugh.  Their cheeks are constantly rosy and moist from every family member needing to give them a kiss.  Jeffrey and Eva teach them all sorts of things – good and bad.  Good:   “Can we do homework like Jeffrey and Eva?”  Bad:  “Mom, listen to this song,  ‘When you’re sitting on the john and the toilet paper’s gone, be a man, use your hands’ ”.  We have been attending the same 2 preschools since Jeffrey was little, so over 6 years with Leaping Lizards and First School.  I no longer have shortness of breath when the kids feed a mouse to Okatee, the pet snake; and I can identify the Tootee Ta song in one note.

John had an incredible year.  After 6 great years at eBay and PayPal, he left this summer to take time off with the family.  The whole family has benefited; and we’re so thankful to have him around.  John got to spend a lot of time with Jeffrey during baseball season, which was a big part of his growth and progress.  We traveled to Japan this summer with Eva and Jeffrey to attend a wedding and John’s 20th year fellowship reunion.  (John lived and worked in Nagoya, Japan during his junior summer at Harvard, and was part of the first group to participate in the Kawamura Fellowship 20 years ago.)  After Japan, we went on to the Philippines to visit my relatives, many of whom I had not seen in 23 years.  We took Marena and Vivian on their own special week vacation to Palm Desert.  John also took the girls on a trip to Wisconsin this fall.  We went to Austin to take Jeffrey to camp, visiting the Texas museum, the LBJ Presidential Library and bowing in reverence to the Longhorns stadium.  John and I celebrated 20 years since we met on our blind date, with a vacation to Cabo San Lucas.  John also golfed more this year.  As of early December, he has played 61 rounds of golf.  It is the most golf, by far, he has played in a year.  His golf scores, however, have stayed the same.  John is very active in angel-investing in emerging internet and technology companies.  He has enjoyed this; and it gives him the opportunity to work with many of his old colleagues and business partners.  We are also in the midst of updating and remodeling our home, and John has lead the charge on this effort.  We plan to start construction in the spring or summer.  It turns out John is just as busy now, than when he was working full time.  Maybe that’s why he is planning to go back to work next year.

As for me, John’s temporary retirement was a bit of a transition.  Although it has been wonderful to have him around, he is a fifth person to keep track of and add to the color-coded Outlook calendar.  The usual “little people” questions of “Mom, where are my basketball shoes; Where is my homework folder; Where is my teletubbie, fall low on the frustration meter, compared to a 41 year old asking, “May, do we have any more milk; Where is the hammer; Boy, this kitchen gets messy”.  At 7pm, when things are winding down, I can usually handle these questions/comments with a modicum of grace.  But, when they are mingled with the childrens’ questions at 3:30 in the afternoon, and the hurricane of backpacks and jackets has just turned a freshly cleaned house into instant bedlam; all I can muster is the look of death or the expecto patronum spell.  For all you Harry Potter fans, I’m keeping the Avada Kedavra spell on hand in case John asks me if we should have a fifth child.

This year has been a boon for Boston sports, so I’ve been having a great time cheering on my Boston College, Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics teams!  I celebrated my 40th birthday in May with a U2 cover band at my party.  I finally got to dance on stage with Bono. 🙂  I still play field hockey in the fall, but the kids’ weekend activities are making it harder to fit it in.  Although I joked about it in last year’s letter, I started taking voice lessons in January.  Once I got over the fear of doing something I had never done before, I loved it.  I have been doing volunteer work at school and in the community and so far, have not felt the itch to go back to work. But, if John keeps showing up in the middle of the day asking me random questions, I may change my mind.

So, I asked everyone to give me a life lesson they learned from this year:

Jeffrey:  “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Eva:  “Brown people should be treated the same way as white people.” (The girls love the movie “Hairspray”.)

Vivian:  “When you are in the carpool lane, wave your hands.” (We got stopped when an officer thought I was alone in the Suburban.)  Alone in the Suburban, hmmm, sounds like heaven.

Marena:  “If you say pee, you can say pee if you are talking about the letter p or you have to go pee and not the potty word.”

John:  “It has been an amazing time with the kids; and you can learn so much from them” (like whether we have more milk)

May:  “I learned to separate my trust and confidence in my children from my fear of letting go.”  I also learned that packing a stack of preaddressed stamped envelopes is not enough to ensure lots of letters home from camp.

We are off to Kauai for our annual vacation; and we will be back in time to celebrate Christmas at home.  May you all have a wonderful holiday season and may all your life lessons be merry.

May, John, Jeffrey, Eva, Marena (standing on rock) & Vivian (sitting between Mom & Dad)

Jeffrey, 9 years old

Eva, 7 years old

Vivian, 4 years old

Marena, 4 years old