2009 Letter

Warmest Greetings To You All -

I rarely ever re-read anything I have written, this is especially true of these yearly letters. I won't bore you with the reasons why, but before typing character one this year, I quickly scanned two previous letters. It seems that I often try to summarize each year with a lesson learned or a theme; the reality is all of these themes are just variations of a single theme: life is about learning. This fact is so simple and straight-forward that it often gets lost in the daily details – but the lessons are there. Sometimes they're painful, sometimes they are funny or enlightening but they are always beautiful.

I previously described Jade as a defender of justice, but I am amending that statement – she is more of a commander. She actually demands that things be fair and balanced - she can spot imbalances on a
nano-scale from a 1000 yard distance. Sitting here clocked with hindsight and perspective I can see this as an amazing gift. She is the ultimate two headed coin, oscillating from a very loving, charing person who showers you with statements like “I missed you today” and simple “I love yous” and is concerned when someone is hurt or crying, to trying to be the first person who is literally heard from three counties away. She'll devastate you with a glance of her sparkling blue eyes one second and then a brow so furrowed that you can bury you fingertip in the wrinkles the next. Jade also has an insatiable love of pink. She will wear, drink, eat or use anything that is pink. Give her a pink pen and she'll write and draw until the ink runs dry. Give her a pair of pink ballet slippers and they'll become a permanent fixture upon her feet. I'd change her name to Pink if it weren't already taken (that is a pop culture reference for those wondering what I am talking about).

Not that we had any doubt but this year Finley affirmed with every waking moment that he is a boy. All boy. He can make a “shooter” out of anything that fits into his hand: a coat hanger, a pencil, a small rubber hose or shoe lace, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't have to fit in his hand, he just needs the ability to point it – along with some sort of noise. The accompanying noise varies, sometimes it sounds like a fire hose, sometimes its like a bodily function. You never know what you are going to get – regardless it always feels a little humiliating to be the target. Finn's imagination is growing everyday and his storytelling abilities along with it. Between his expressive eyebrows (which can move three inches I swear) and the slightly crooked mouth, his face tells half the story. You are guaranteed to be entertained. I am preparing myself for a future full of learning – you see Finley is going be either a football or soccer (both football depending on how you look at it) player. He has shown impressive skills in both. He can throw a ball with great accuracy and “touch”. With most kids his age you need protection so you don't get hurt – not so with Finn, he's got a good balance of velocity and placement. The same goes for kicking. This summer while playing in the backyard he continually kicked the soccer ball right to me - I didn't need to move. That's more than I can say for him, my returns were all over the place. I'll call myself his conditioning coach until he realizes I have no skills.

Our darling Ainsley is really growing up. She is getting really tall. I don't know why, but she is all legs. She got glasses this year, the rims are partially pink...so Jade really likes them. She looks very cute and after a five month break-in period are now a regular fixture on her face. I lost count but she read somewhere between 1,432,937 and 1,434,217 books this year. At times she'll go through two or more in a day. We once again give thanks and praise to the local library. She is still taking private Irish dancing lessons. This year her crew performed two shows at the Thurston County Fair. Unfortunately this fell on the hottest day of the year, about 105ยบ. Despite lots of water and breaks, she was still pretty beat by the end of the day. The next performance was at the mall...the air conditioned mall. Nice. Our adopted family member and Ainsley's longest running friend Carol bought her piano lessons. She has really taken to it. Her teacher doesn't spend time with Mary Had A Little Lamb and Chopsticks, instead she teaches much more enjoyable pieces like Cannon in D and the Rite of Spring. Even in the early stages, these songs are nice to listen to. Ainsley also ventured into motherhood this year, become step-mom to her cousin Jamie's displaced hamster. I'd say it has been an interesting experiment for everyone in the house. Trying to get him out of our radiant heat floorboards within the first two hours of his arrival didn't set a very pretty picture of the future. The good news is we were much faster the second time.

I no longer know how to describe Christy. I don't think it is intentional but she keeps finding new ways to show all of us how much we are loved. This ranges from the constant (and I mean constant) food preparation she does for the kids, the planned and unplanned park days, the chauffeuring to music class twice a week (Finn and Jade are in chorus too), dance class, play dates, nature hikes, grocery shopping, house painting, laundry, book reading all the way down to the hugs, kisses and moments of listening and understanding. The way that she listens to my days, bounces ideas around with me, adopts my attitudes towards people she has never met and shares with my numerous frustrations with grunts and sighs of displeasure shows how much she cares. This summer we decided to finally paint our house – a project that has been looming for over a year now. We could have renamed this project the “marriage stability test”. You see, we rented a paint sprayer and I'll be darned if using it wasn't a lot harder than all the YouTube clips suggested. By the time I got half way done with one side (the side no one sees) my second guessing at the process was in high gear. My understanding and appreciation of the people who do this for a living was immensely increased – they earn every cent they charge. Nonetheless, Christy found a way to suggest different ideas to me, careful not to fracture my male ego and yet find a way to get the house done in a way so that it didn't look like Jackson Pollock painted it in the end. She is the ultimate multi-tasker. She is getting better and better at balancing what needs to be done, with what people want to have done. That is impressive to watch.

The Department of Ecology served me with lots of the painful lessons I spoke of earlier. Not in a bad way though, they were hard to consume at first but I really do believe that I am better for having navigated them. This year I learned that I can't do everything, I have shortcomings in my skills and abilities and it's OK to ask for help. I have been working on a project for the better part of a year, and when I finally had something to show people for feedback it was torn apart It turns out the software users aren't concerned with all of the cool and nifty code that runs in the background – they are mostly concerned with how the application looks and how many clicks it takes. It is a lot like stocking shelves – nobody cares how fast you can put the cans on the shelf or if you can throw a can up in the air, catch it behind your back and then place it label out with you eyes closed. They only care about the items being on the edge and easy to reach. Facing my fear of rejection, failure and humiliation, I bit the bullet and admitted my faults and asked for help. Of course, this being the State, it took 8 months for that help to come into fruition. Now I can concentrate on what I know I am good at – writing nifty code nobody cares about. While I don't have a lot to show for this year in terms of tangible items, I do have a ton of new knowledge about myself. I just hope that 2010 presents things in a softer package.

Anytime that I can do something better than Ainsley, I explain to her that it is because I am a “professional”. But I recently read that the word amateur has its roots in the word amator – Latin for lover. So I really am an amateur - a lover of this family. Make 2010 great. I hope the new year is filled with peace, love and good happiness stuff.