2008 Letter

Warm Greetings One and All -

I hope that this letter finds you all in good health and spirits. 2008 has been an interesting year for all of us, one of growth, learning, understanding and patience.

We are starting to see signs of “twiness” between Finley and Jade. They are really starting to play off of each other, both in good times and in bad. They talk to each other, laugh with each other, tease each other, make each other cry and at times, make each other happy. It is truly amazing to watch this process. They are the epitome of the phrase the “sum is greater than the parts”. Finn is the brawn and Jade is the brains. Together they form a tag team that can test the patience and endurance of any adult tandem.

Finley is teaching us what it is like to raise a boy. Just the other day, he took a hard cover book, laid it against the floor heater and proceeded to use this book as a ramp for his little radio flier trike. Once his wheels were up on the window he leaned back and in faux slow motion rolled backwards with the trike falling onto him, finishing the show with a forced grunt of disappointment. I guess I should have paid more attention in biology class to learn where in the Y chromosome all of the ramp building, hot wheel driving, tractor sounds are. These things are so instinctual that I am often surprised at how he knows what it is he is doing. For all of his bruteness, Finn is also one of the best snugglers there is. When he chooses to, he melts into your arms and radiates comfort and peace. These moments, while fading in frequency are some of the favorites and I sometimes have to plead with Christy to give him up so I can cherish one of the moments.

Jade continues to be the voice of injustice. Although this year her voice has gotten stronger and is accompanied by lots of words and tilted eyebrows – showing all types of emotion and conviction. She is strong willed, loves to read and requires both arms be in full swing in order to run. Jade loves to cuddle with Finn, rubs his head and comforts him when he is sad and can finish any line in any book we own. She also believes that Ainsley is just about the coolest person on earth and wants to be with her at all times. She is also one of the funniest kids I know.

Jade is also very intuitive and smart. A couple of weeks ago she looked Christy up and down and said. “you have cute bottom”. Something she is used to hearing herself. Of course Christy loved to hear that and Jade is currently running in the number one position in the favorite kid race. I am not too sure what to think of this since I yet to hear anything of that sort myself. Either I don't have a cute bottom or Jade isn't concerned with making my favor. Either way, I feel slighted.

Ainsley has turned into an incredible reader. She has developed an insatiable appetite for books. We are constantly reminded of the value of the public library system. A few months ago I made a deal with Ainsley that is she did a few extra chores around the house I would pay her with a trip to Borders and she could pick out three books. Two days later we are at Border's purchasing $20 worth of books. By dinner time the next day all three books were finished. That was one of the last times we purchased any books. It is public library or bust from here on out. Ainsley is continuing to take Irish dance at the Olympia Regional Learning Academy and just finished her second stint in soccer and a pottery class. Christy and I are already wondering how we are going to manage when we have three older kids, all with the own interests and events to attend. I think we will need to hire a chauffeur.

I have often said the day would come and it is officially here: Ainsley is smarter than me. The other day she was complaining that her arm hurt. We talked about that area of her arm, the triceps, looked at pictures and discussed how many muscles there were in the group. A couple of of days later, while attempting some cartwheels, she pulled up gimp and grabbed the back of her leg. On the spot I said, “I'll give you 100 bucks if you can tell me the name of that muscle”. She failed. Feeling cocky, I said “I'll give you 50 bucks if you can tell me how many muscles make up that group”. She paused...and finally answered five. Crap. She immediately started listing the things she could do with 50 bucks. I later talked her into a trade – instead of 50 bucks I would buy her an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen. She took it. Whew.

Christy is my beacon for all things that are right. Whenever I have lost my way her example of love patience, kindness and focus always brings me back to center. Whether this is not being the parent that I want for my kids, growing ever frustrated with my ineffectiveness at work or just generally adrift, she can effortlessly bring everything back into focus. I am learning that perspective is one of the greatest tools and there is no better way to gain perspective on what an amazing mother Christy is than to take all three kids to the grocery store. For me, these types of outings are measured in dog years, 30 minutes becomes 3.5 hours and four extra gray hairs. She has tried to explain how to configure the kids for a successful grocery store run...but I have yet to execute it correctly. I think I need a diagram or something I can carry in my wallet.

I continue to swim upstream at the Department of Ecology's Water Quality Program. Earlier in the year our program faced some serious budget issues which led us to redefine a 1.3 million dollar project into less than $100K. The process started an evolution for me in “thinking out of the box”, finding ways to work with what we have and developing ways to do our jobs more efficiently. I am looking at IT differently now, it is less about bells and whistles and creating more gadgets, it is about developing tools that make people better at their job and making it easier for program to meet their stated mission statement – cleaner water. Somewhere along the line everyone has lost sight of this, getting bogged down in the day to day minutia becoming complaisant with processes and no longer asking “why” or “could we do this better?” I often forget that everyday when I walk through the door I am stepping into an alternate reality filled with those who play Trivial Pursuit at their desk and where decisions are made with a different type of logic. This constant paradigm shifting is probably why I get headaches so often. Back in 2006 I received the program's Creative Thinker award for my work with a program wide reporting system. This year, I won the Agency's Creative Thinker award for saving the program over 1 million dollars by sticking with Oracle and allowing me to expand the reporting system to something that may in fact make us more effective at our jobs. For all of its shortcomings, at least they recognize good thinking. In all honesty it does feel good to be thought of highly be your peers.

As the old saying goes, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and 2008 has made us stronger. Three cases of chicken pox in August was our defining moment. My heartfelt thanks to my newly retired mom who provided the additional support we needed during this time.

I hope that 2009 brings the best year possible to everyone and that it is filled with peace, love and good happiness stuff.