Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Letter 2013

As I began to reflect on our 2013 year for this letter, the first thing I notice is that I didn't even write a holiday letter in 2012!  

I guess once you forget to add the blog address to the Christmas cards, you get an opportunity to skip the whole thing.  Next you probably rationalize that now that there is Facebook everyone probably already know most of the highlights of the year anyway.  

Well, skipping the holiday letter feels like cheating to me, and since I do plan to print this blog in book form again for the girls, someone, will notice.  I hold the right to back date a 2012 holiday letter at some point in the future, you have been warned.

In no particular order, here are the blessings and challenges I wanted to highlight in the 2013 calendar year. 

  • 2013 school year start was a hard one for Jaq.  A new teacher and missing her BFF created a lot of anxiety for her, and the results have been stressful for the entire family.  We are still working through it but it's been hard to watch her struggle.  
  • Water leak in the kitchen created the need for a new window in the basement and part of the wall to be replaced.
  • Termites.  
  • Julianne determined to bite herself to death -- not fleas but some kind of nervous habit and skin condition that has her chewing on her legs and hips regularly.  Add to that she is deaf and you get a near impossible situation to resolve.
  • A bit more travel/work on Meg's part than is easily handled at home.
  • 10YO got her heart broken [and a life lesson about disappointment and assumption of victory], by not making student council president.
  • Network outages -- now that phone, cable and internet are all from the same carrier, one bad router experience can really bum out your week, even taking down music in the house.  Having this happen on an already stressful week when Meg was out of town was just a cosmic bonus.
  • Dog hospital stays - Julianne decided to eat something that was not edible, and gave us a bit of a scare as we watched her dehydrate and grow weak.  After several days of IV fluids and stays at the vet, she eventually came back to life.  Its pretty scary when they are this old and they get really sick as you are not completely sure if it's age or illness that you are experiencing with the lethargy and sad eyes.
  • Picking the wrong card photos - My 8 year old informed me she is disappointed in our Christmas card this year, in that she didn't get to dress up for a photo shoot.  We expect to fix that today with this holiday letter so please accept my apologies for doing things out of order this year.

  • Travel!  Getting the whole family traveling was a huge milestone for us and mom was beside herself with joy about it, so much so she forced everyone on a shore excursion death march of fun with 14 hour days in the heat.
  • Meg's job is still fun for her (nice to enjoy something if you do it so much)
  • Exercise -- The weak link in the family is now getting more, if not a sufficient amount of regular exercise.
  • Weather - it's been a gorgeous drought year.  While you are not supposed to like those in NorCal it is hard to not enjoy the extra sunshine.
  • Health - other than some minor colds and one broken bone we have been very fortunate.  Even the seasonal allergies have been mild. 
  • Bay Area eTc.  Getting Jacqueline into a theater program has been a great for the whole family.  She is really enjoying it and has made some good friends, and we have all been thrilled to no longer suffer during the soccer games and practices no one was enjoying.   
  • Volunteering - It is a blessing for us that Bob has been able to help out in so many ways with the girls projects.  From field trips, to band support, to classroom help, to playground monitor, to coaching sports, to being named a "master carpenter" for the Oliver show he has been consistently recognized as helping not only our own children, but all working parents who have less availability to volunteer. 
  • Sports - Ashton has been enjoying the heck out of sports this year taking on more and more activities.  She loves to compete and has never known of a team event that she does not want to join.  This year she added basketball and volleyball to the softball and soccer she was already doing.
  • Skiing - we have been blessed to not only be able to frequently ski but to have good friends to join us.

We clearly have had so many more blessings than challenges in 2013, both in scale and in number.  While life does appear to be going more quickly this year than prior years, we continue to appreciate all that we have.  We know that our greatest blessing is you our friends and family and we send your way wishes of love and joy in this holiday season. 

Love, Bob, Meg, Ashton (10) and Jacqueline (8) Bear

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oliver! Production

Instead of soccer this fall Jacqueline joined the Bay Area educational theater company's production of Oliver!  We knew this was going to be a big commitment for the whole family but we were all excited to see Jacqueline get to start a new sport.

 First there was set construction.  While Bob did the lion share of this activity, Jacqueline and Ashton (and even Sofia) pitched in to help.

There were several activities including a "twins' day where Jacqueline and her friend made it into the winners circle (notice the matching casts).
 Once we got to the big stage there was both the intense "tech week" as well as the full stage and props to work with.  Everyone was very excited (and a bit tired).
 Of course, there might have been some electronics in the in between times.
 She had several scenes at the top of the bridge, again, not the best iphone shots.

 She had a professional head shot and a bio.
 and she even had fans.
 both friends and family members.
 By the 8th show mom started getting pretty proficient with the stage makeup.
 but the best show was the last oen where there were more flowers and BFFs coming to see all the hard work.  Well done our pick-pocket!

Fall [soft] ball

 There is a fall softball league that helps the girls get more practice in the off season.  Bob helped to coach this league and Ashton enjoyed playing with many of the girls from her all star league.
 I didn't get to see many of the games due to overlap with the rest of the schedule but the games I did get to showed a real improvement in the skills of the girls.  They are now really confident stealing bases and fielding plays.
 And the best part of the season was winning the championship trophy.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Since she didn't have enough going on this fall, Ashton decided to give Volleyball a try as well.  While calling this logistically complicated is an understatement, mom was really happy for her get a chance to play volleyball as I loved the sport when I was a teen.

 Watching elementary volleyball for the first time I had a few observations

1. The games are very short -- if you are 15 minutes late you are likely to have missed a good %age of the game.
 2. They smartly have a good amount of flexibility on where the girls can serve the ball.  This really impressed me as it gave the game less waiting and helped the girls build skills at the same time.
 3. It's super hard to get a decent photo with an iPhone.  Both because the light is bad and the zoom is really grainy.

Ashton loved the sport and was able to develop some good confidence and skills in the short season.  This was especially nice since she was one of the only fifth graders who had never played before. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013 - scary indeed

 And the costumes this year were Avenger's theme...Black Widow for 3rd grade.

 and a complex 5th grade group collaboration of M&Ms that took a satisfying couple months to plan...

Jaq and her teacher are ready for some candy.
 and a parade...
 She insisted mom dress up and wanted to go back to the 50's theme (said I could do odd/even  with the costumes)

By the end of the night they were pretty tired...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Broken Arm

 Upon picking Jacqueline up from theater practice I noticed she was holding her arm funny.  When I asked her what happened she said "I don't want to tell you".

On our way to urgent care after a series of questions and short responses (and assurances that I wasn't mad) I finally got the story that she had fallen off the monkey bars during a short break.

Of course, we went for an xray that was visibly painful for her but she never cried.  In fact, she never mentioned the fall to anyone at the practice.
 but clearly you could see that the bone was broken.  She got 2 trips to urgent care, and 2 trips to the ER that night to finally end up with a splint and instructions to see the Orthopedist in a few days after the swelling went down.

 After some painful "manipulation" of her wrist she emerged with an orange cast and the words of wisdom that a "crooked cast is a straight bone".  OK then.

At this point when we asked her what she had learned from the ordeal she was quick to state that hanging upside down on monkey bars with pants was not a good idea as pants are too slippery.  Instead she recommends pulling the pants up so that your legs grip better.

A few weeks later she got another cast, this time she went for blue and it was much straighter.

Friday, October 18, 2013


 The PTA decided to kick off the year straight into fund-raising.  You can imagine my enthusiasm.

Kids were excited to do the walk-a-thon as ever, and thankfully the weather held as well.

Jacqueline and Sofia were quick to spot Ms. Chan walking.

Ashton on the other hand appears to be more excited about the orange slices as the photos show...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

AYSO Goofy Goobers

Soccer season this year only Ashton played.  She worked really hard this season getting the "golden gatorade" on more than one occasion for working hard on the field.

 Ashton was a solid team player, often recognized for listening and working hard both in the games and at practice.

 She played goalie for much of the season but by the end tended to prefer to play forward. 

And of course, what is a sporting event without fans?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tae kwon do

 After several times asking we finally were able to get Jacqueline into Tae kwon do.  She is having a blast.
 Of course a big part of the appeal is having a BFF in the class with her.  Although it does appear this sport draws on a lot of her strengths.  Kicking, hitting, yelling, etc.  She really is a natural!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

And then she was 8!

Theme for the 8th year was a sophisticated zoo.

With friends and hugs

And even a shared birthday girl (Brooklyn had her party right before)

And a few crazy stunts

and lots of sugar and smiles.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Day of school 2013

No first day of school would be complete here without a neighborhood photo.  It was during this photo that we began to realize that we had two different levels of enthusiasm for the first day of school.

The fifth grader struggled to contain the enthusiasm.  
 Proudly showing off her new backpack choice (get it?  California Bear...)

The third grader was feeling just a little more hesitant.  This was a new teacher and her BFF was in a different class.  She was pretty stressed out.
Luckily she could still walk together to school and after a plan to meet at recess was hatched we were off.  Look out 2013 -- here we go!