Monday, December 19, 2011

Annual Christmas Letter

Most of you have already read this - but someday my kids will read this and laugh at their father who enjoys his yearly letter maybe a bit too much.

Family and Friends,

If the letter is dramatically different next year, it is because Lisa and I are arguing over the contents as I seek her feedback the night before sending this out. She claims I don’t want her feedback, but why else would I have asked for it? She keeps getting caught up on the difference between facts, memories, and the artistic license required to make this mildly entertaining. And then she wants me to say positive things about our kids. It’s not my style, and for at least this year, this remains MY letter. Challenging Lisa on such important matters after 11 years of marriage is how a father of 5 lives on the edge. Actually a father of five always lives on the edge. (Editor’s note: there were some actual improvements made to the letter after Lisa’s review.) On to the year…

I crossed one cat species off my list and two countries. While in Chile for work I took a few days to visit Patagonia at the southern tip of the continent in hopes of seeing a puma. It was an adventure worthy of more than paragraph a in the Christmas letter, so if you ever head that way I have a few pointers on how to avoid $35/gallon gasoline, where to spotlight for pumas in Torres del Paine N.P., what guanacos and rheas are, and a highly recommended Spanish only speaking guide. (No, I don’t speak Spanish) While I was gone Andrew prayed, "Help dad see pumas on his drive home so he can take pictures of it, or in the morning when there is enough light, or when it is dark but with lots of flashlights." That’s how we spell love at the Easton home.

In between tours of ancient ruins in Mexico and Guatemala with Lisa’s family we watched BYU in the NCAA basketball tournament over the internet or with the Spanish speaking commentators on TV. Jimmer proved to be an international phenomenon. Mack and Andrew made homemade Jimmer BYU jerseys out of white t-shirts.

I spent 4 months successfully on the “get in and out of shape plan” and completed my second ½ marathon in the middle of the plan.

We took a late summer trip to Washington State to look for whales and to visit the mountains, rain forests, and beaches of Olympic National Park. After 3 hours on the boat straining to see through the pea soup like conditions we had seen nary a whale, but the boat captain and many of the passengers knew Andrew and Natali by name as they roamed the decks looking for signs of wildlife and striking up conversations with strangers. Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of killer whales that frolicked around and beneath our boat for nearly an hour—what a memory!

In an effort to avoid the effects of global warming I scheduled two trips to Yellowstone National Park this year and managed to catch the last snow of spring season and the first snow of autumn. Our stalwart kids didn’t let the weather slow them down as our family of 7 completed a 3 mile hike in 39 degree weather. We proved that kids are scarier than cars by not seeing a single mammal during our hike but we did see grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, and about everything else from the road.

Natali (9)—received a perfect attendance award at school—I feel like a failure as a parent. She may have gone to school sick a few times to make sure she received the free bike prize for not missing a day. The kids must have too many days off of school if she can win the award and we still put so many miles on the car. She narrowly missed the perfect daughter award.
Mack (8)—was baptized in October and spent the remaining 364 days playing football, basketball, or soccer. He stopped playing long enough to attend a BYU football game and read the collected works of Roald Dahl. I think his life is good and so does he.

Andrew (6)—driving home one night with just Andrew in the car we had a deep conversation about the foreign species in his 1st grade class. Andrew confessed that at recess they always play “Girls chase the Boys”, and though one of his friends likes to get caught Andrew vehemently declared, “But none of them ever touched me!” Andrew conceded to attend school this year, but only until he learns how to read his animal books. He sleeps on the floor in his room nearly every night—except for the night he and I slept at the zoo next to the Lion enclosure.

Kate (4)—has found her 2nd home at dance class and is ready to perform at the mere suggestion. She still likes to snuggle and find an open lap for story time. She is not quite as into hiking (let’s be honest, walking on uneven surfaces can be difficult) and the outdoors as the boys are, but somehow I still love her just as much.

Emily (1)—has been taught by her siblings the appropriate sound for all 4 primary animals. (Editor’s note: there is no such thing as 4 primary animals, but she can growl, meow, moo, and woof woof). Her official vocabulary consists of 53% “no”, 45% “nuh-uh” and an assortment of other words that occasionally imply approval or acceptance. Look for her in the 2012 Toddler Olympics as a food thrower. Other than that she’s absolutely adorable and hasn’t lost her red hair yet.

Editor’s note on obligatory praise of children: our kids really are wonderful, talented, well-behaved, good-looking, and even love each other and their parents, but you probably could have guessed that.

Book of the year—The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. Even Lisa enjoyed reading about a man-eating Siberian Tiger.

Author’s note: my apologies to the readers and editor for going beyond 1 page for the first time in Easton Christmas Letter history. The truth is I look forward to the chance to write fiction once a year way more than I should. I find myself reflective at this year end. What have I done with my time and talents? It is easy to be busy, but it is much harder to be good. To paraphrase Thomas Monson, may we all keep Christmas this year rather than just spending it.

Merry Christmas, Love the Easton Family (Greg, Lisa, Natali, Mack, Andrew, Kate, and Emily)

Family Pictures 2011

Our good friend took our pictures again this year. The kids had fun eating apples and exploring the swamp. The boys were knee deep in water before we even got started. Emily ate a bunch of skittles and Kate did her best "smiles" far too often. But all things considered it turned out pretty well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another one bites the dust...

I took Mack in for his annual eye exam. He has a amblyopia, fancy talk for a lazy eye, so we check on it now and then. When they put up the first row of letters for him to read I knew we were in trouble. He could only read the very largest letters accurately (the ones right under the huge E). My quiet little guy sits in the back row at school and of course never mentioned that he can't read anything his teacher puts on the board.

That officially puts us at 2 for 2 - kids getting glasses in the second grade. This is not a stat I am trilled about. I didn't get glasses till 4th grade and Greg only got glasses after Andrew was born. Technically, Greg doesn't even have to wear glasses. Mack's eyes are already twice as bad as Greg's. However, both of us carry the genes for bad eye sight. I was hoping some of our kids would get the good half of Greg's genes but alas...I guess I should just be grateful we live in a world where glasses are readily available so my little guy can see.