Sunday, December 21, 2014

Special Winter Update

I'm temporarily reviving this blog in a decidedly un-summery part of the year to update the followers of the family about what we've been up to in 2014. So, let's call this post what it is, a supplement to the Christmas card (which is about to be renamed New Year's card if it doesn't arrive soon). And for those of you whose address I've misplaced or never had, perhaps this will suffice as a means of knowing what has been going on here in Lansdale.

First, the kids. Here are my two favorite pictures of them from this year.

Okay, so you caught me changing my mind. In a web album, I indicated something else as my favorite Caroline photo. So, let me explain the change of mind (and, while I'm at it, the photo I chose of Sam). We've been fortunate to have schools for our children that give them chances to feel special. Caroline finished her Kindergarten year at Rainbow Express Preschool, a place that has been an academic home for our children since September 2006. I can jest a lot about how good it feels to not write them a tuition check anymore, but for all those years I knew the kids were in good hands. And I appreciate the care they take to have Kindergartners star in their annual musicals. Meanwhile, the photo I have of Sam was taken by a friend from a distance (some lenses there) at a school function. Some parents in the neighborhood put together an awesome night showcasing 2nd graders. The kids wrote books in their classes, and on that night in April the authors got to share their books with parents and friends of parents. The look on Sam's face in that photo is exceptional. It captures him wonderfully.

Of course, it wouldn't be a good blog post without a pair of silly kid photos. Here we go, my favorites from the silly division.

Caroline decided on this outfit while boys were loudly playing with Hero Factories in the house, and while dads were enjoying beers on the porch. 

Sam and the Cherpumple. 
Some big-ticket to-do's got crossed off the list this year. For instance, I really wanted to check out at least one new state park this year, and I did so with a brief trip to Promised Land. The campsite itself was okay (a bit rough) but the view along the lake (within footsteps of our site) and the bathrooms were top notch.

Hickory Run remains our favorite, and we were there three times this year, each time with a (at least slightly) different roster of friends or family. I think the multi-family trip in July, with us renting three adjacent sites, was one of the most fun times I've had in the woods. Almost enough to make me consider forfeiting the Grange Fair tradition in lieu of doing something like that in the woods with the family.

We stayed at 351. Friends took sites adjacent.

Now, that's a tent. Sleeps six comfortably. 
There were some enormous historical site items crossed off the list, too this year. In chronological order, I had chances to visit Gettysburg again (this time with a bike, along the Union lines), a first visit to the Tenement Museum (which was awesome: need to go back there with Sherry and with AP students), Diefenbunker (excessively nerdy fun), and the Henry Ford.

Sam, Caroline, and I pose in front of the Tenement Museum.

Sherry and I being goofy at Henry Ford. 

I really appreciated the rich cultural history at the Henry Ford. 

TVs from three generations on display at Henry Ford.
In between these adventures Sherry and I sneaked in trips to three more presidential homes: Jefferson's, Monroe's, and Wilson's.

The vacation this year was a 2,500-mile odyssey (in an Odyssey, of course) through Ontario and Michigan. I don't want to bore readers with details on it right now. But I think Sherry and I have conceded that despite its length and expense (lots of hotel stays and meals out), it was easily our 2nd favorite vacation ever. I take great pride in the excellent ability to travel Sam and Caroline continue to show.

The path of our trip, kind of. We ended up skipping the Erie part and instead broke north through Ithaca. 
The biggest trip in our family was undertaken by just one of us, Sherry. She traveled to Australia for more than a couple of weeks on business. She has the photos from that experience. I only have photos from the devastation visited on our house by her absence for that time.

Diets get unbalanced when Sherry is away. 

When I'm left in charge, strange things happen, like the appearance of towers of open tissue boxes. 

Utter, complete sadness at Sherry's departure. 

Caroline really liked the gifts Sherry brought back. She donned them immediately in apparel from a gifted box of fragments her grandmother gave to her.

We fared well in Sherry's absence though a few things, in particular, were hard. I dreaded dinners at home without her and appreciate all the help from friends and family to have us over for dinner. I also missed Sherry at incomplete family gatherings, like the July 4 activities down in Glenside. Friends, by the way, were enormously helpful spelling me, spelling Sam, and especially spelling Caroline. Also, our neighbor's granddaughter just happened to be staying with her Nana for a few weeks during Sherry's departure, and she provided invaluable babysitting services.

The Australia trip was the high note of a great year for Sherry at Vanguard. Life for me in Central Bucks was mostly positive. I'm having a lot of fun in the classroom these days, finding new ways to change pace with my teaching. I feel like I'm meeting with fair success warding off staleness.

My students' doodles. 

From a board game my AP U.S. students and I designed. 

Annotations from class. 
One friend retired and two other very close friends left for opportunities outside my district. I'm still struggling to replace their camaraderie. Otherwise, I feel happy and alive as an educator.

When we're not traveling or working we're living a good life. Church continues to be a home for us and I've enjoyed building on friendships there. I've been able to run a lot this past year, and am running for distances I never thought I would be able to complete. Perhaps this upcoming summer I'll see if I can pull off a ten-mile run. Sam and Caroline are both reading and riding bikes now (okay, maybe the bikes not right now because it's winter). They find a way to make me laugh daily. They're trying hard in school, which we appreciate. And our home continues to be a wonderful base for us. It's hard to believe we've been here now more than a dozen years. It'd be nice if it had an extra room, but I can't beat this neighborhood and the good friends we have here.

That's it for now. Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful 2015. And I'll resume writing on this blog in June.