Monday, December 29, 2014

Our 2014

In the gray of the late fall, feeling cabin feverish, I began to flip through our pictures to knock out yet another chore, choosing pictures for our Christmas card. I was bewildered at the sheer number of photos I took this last year. Nearly all of them outside—sweet cabin fever relief—at some interesting place, e.g., the Oregon beach, the Washington beach, my brother's in Eugene, Lina and Dave's in Elma, Beavertail Canyon on the Deschutes river... Our peak fun month seems to be August. Every year since our kids arrived, I have taken somewhere close to a thousand pictures that month. As I flip through them, none of them seem superfluous. The chore of choosing pictures quickly morphed into a frolic through the wonderful memories of the past year.

In the past year Boots finished the first grade and started the second. Her improvement in her reading and writing is phenomenal. As I write, she is across from me reading a chapter book and turning the pages faster than I think she ought to be. She also writes her own stories. This year she has created several dozen books. Some are derivative of things she's read or seen on TV, some are entirely her own creation. A few she wrote for Berzo. A favorite of Berzo's was based on Frozen, on one page was a picture of Olaf making more Olafs. Berzo found this hilarious. Boots illustrates her books and and binds them with staples.  I need to take one of her more complete works to Powell's Espresso printer to get it professionally bound.

The author & illustrator at work.
Despite her success at school, all the amazing uses to which she puts her new found skills, and being doted on by her teacher, each morning I am subjected to the same mantra, “I hate school. Why do I have to go? I hate school.” To prepare for their day, some people drink coffee, some people exercise, some people do a daily devotional of some kind, my daughter performs her I-hate-school mantra and off she goes. I always collect a happy kid from the big yellow bus who extolls upon me the adventures and experiences of her day, which are almost always positive.

Boots has made strides in swimming and I hope that one day she'll want to be a part of a swim team. Her passion for horses and all things equestrian has only intensified this last year. When she has something to ask me she says, “Mama, I have an equestrian.” She is a cool little kid that I love hanging out with, especially when we get a chance to be alone together.

Gabrielle started pre-school this year. She is in a Gymboree School Skills class one day a week. She is proud to be going to school like her big sister. On the first day, she insisted we take a picture with the pretzel, a German tradition, and on having a backpack with her school things in it. (There are no required supplies for preschoolers, but we got some anyway.) She went right into her class the first day, nervous but not scared, and greeted me with a happy hug when it was over two short hours later. She is also starting swim lessons this coming January and seems really ready. I, however, am sad to see my “baby” growing up so fast.

During Berzo's early toddlerhood she was very sweet and a bit shy. However, in her threes, she has found her voice and usually uses it for yelling at other kids. We are working on it and I'm sure she phase out of it in time. She seems to have difficulty in reading people's intentions, friendly gestures by a kid at the park are often read as hostile and she reacts as such. Once she gets more socially adept, I don't think she'll feel the need to be so forceful. For those who spend time around us, please be patient as we work through this not-so-glamorous phase.

Charley chalked up some big accomplishments at work. The new CNC machine he convinced the company to invest in last year has been a success. His talented patternmakers had it up and running within days of its arrival in the shop and he is careful to leverage its speed and accuracy as much as possible when scheduling jobs. The Continuous Improvement program he began for the company is also off and running, with employees turning in over 1,100 ideas for the first year. He has played a big part in changing the company culture in a positive way. If you know his company at all, you will know what an ambitious undertaking that is. They are lucky to have him.

The Tough Mudders, Ted, Clark, Charley & Jason.

Charley competed in three big races this past year. He ran the Helvetia Half Marathon in June. Charley and Clark, the brotherly brothers, with Jason and Cousin Ted ran the Tough Mudder in August. They're not kidding when they named it “Tough”. It makes my Warrior Dash races look rather lame. The course is ten miles of leg cramping hill climbs, plunges into ice water—Charley actually kind of liked that part—and electrical shocks. It's grueling and also a pretty darn impressive achievement. After that, he ran the Portland Half Marathon with Lina. After the toughness of the Tough Mudder, he could hardly motivate himself to train for the half. A half marathon is simply too easy these days. Ho-humm. Which is good because coming up in 2015, he's already signed up for the Hood to Coast, on his friend Chris's team. To finish it off, his ex-Navy Seal buddy, Marshall, is working on him to compete in a triathlon.

Working the mash-tun.
Between all this running and working Charley manages to find a few hours to brew a beer occasionally. Special for the Oysterville Regatta, Charley brewed a five-gallon keg of his IPA dubbed, Cappy's Pokahoy IPA. The general comment was, “Geeze Charley, you could have botched it a little—to give us a chance at avoiding a hangover.” Too soon the keg was high in the water, and then it sputtered out. It was a moment of pride for him when visitors from Germany sampled his bier and extended their complements. Germans know bier, and Germans do not veneer their opinions.

He is bringing his brewing to the next level with the addition of the mash tun, which is used to extract sugar from grains. This allows him to remove the malt-extract ingredient from his beer recipes and thereby the malt-extract flavor, which will be awesome for his Hefeweizen recipe, (my favorite variety) but in general the all-grain brewing  process allows for greater control of flavor.

I have spent this year watching my little family growing up, curling up with a book at night as I wait for little eyes to close and breath to soften, and spending most of my free time writing. (I only blog a small fraction of what I write—it's a good thing.)

I have also been serving as a board member for the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, (ORF). ORF owns and maintains the Oysterville Church, several open spaces, and collaborates with other organizations in the community in an effort to preserve the historic heritage of the village. I serve as the secretary in addition to establishing a few IT resources for the foundation. I also traded my web development skills for some killer massages from my friend Lori Karreman as she launched her new business, Serenity Therapy Massage. I came out on the better end of that deal. Seriously.
This is going by too fast.

I look forward to 2015 with mixed feelings. Berzo will be four in June and be entering bigger kid preschool. With a twinge of sadness, I realize the era of being a parent of babies and little kids is coming to a close. We have only a few years left of the sweetness of the innocence of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and unicorns. Little shoes and brightly colored toys are soon to make way for cell phones and sports equipment. Nervous-for-school hugs and “I love you, Mama.” at the bus stop is going to become, “Mom—you're embarrassing me!” Those little hands that fit so small in mine are going to slip away as they dash off with the car keys.

Having been home for seven years I sometimes I peer into the fog of my future and I can't quite make out what that picture looks like, I'm feeling obsolete in so many ways. I'll just hold on to those little monkeys while I still can, then when the time is right I'm sure the picture will become clear.

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

A toast to you!