Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Family and Friends,

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Atlanta waiting for the Christmas Letter Muse to arrive.  She must be delayed due to winter storms.  Sorry, your loss, as the letter must go on.  I just finished face-timing with Lisa and the kids.  She kept giving the kids the phone in a desperate attempt to divert them long enough for her to get dinner on the table.  She is a miracle worker.  Looking through that window into our kitchen made my hotel room seem awfully quiet the moment we hung up.  I hope they know I do miss them. 

My Christmas letters are having the desired effect—my kids are interested in something I say (ok, maybe only write).  Last Sunday while shaving a two-week beard there was more gray hair than I had remembered.  Truth be told, my memory seems to fade more and more so as I write in my journal less and less the Christmas letter will have to be our family record.  Maybe that’s why the kids are so interested. 
I won’t forget the trip to Peru with my brother Brad.  Machu Picchu is definitely bucket-list worthy and managed to exceed my inflated expectations.  Every once in a while I can still hear the pipe music that is played incessantly for tourists across the country. Not surprisingly the Amazon Basin is quite wet during the rainy season.  We waded through water that poured in over the top of our knee-high rubber boots, retired several pairs of socks that never came close to drying out during our stay, kept appropriate distances from poisonous snakes but not a small caiman (Crocodilian) that Brad caught on a night time boat ride, and generally enjoyed being boys.  I involuntarily donated my glasses to the Amazon River while taking pictures of macaws and parrots at a clay lick, I hope someone finds them and puts them to good use.

Mandrew (shorthand for Mack and Andrew) and I had two trips to Yellowstone, one in early May with 75 degree weather and one in late September with a tent covered in snow—go figure.  The boys seem to enjoy it as much as I do and are generally willing to hike despite the weather. 

In a story far too long and truthful or justice in the Christmas letter, Lisa and I made a last minute drive (instead of flying—who knew kids need passports to fly to Canada but not to drive?) 14 hours with an infant in one day to Banff National Park in Canada.  The story also involves a sturdy iPhone case, a few large cracks in the windshield, devastating floods that destroyed bridges and caused landslides stranding everyone in the town, and a return trip with two new friends who needed a ride back to the US. 

I couldn’t pass up 25 lbs. of chocolate peanut caramel clusters for $30 at the Sweets Candy factory on a family trip to Utah.  Lisa was tired of me telling her what a great deal it was long before we finished eating them.  Come to think of it there may be a few left for the kids’ stockings.  The only better thing to do in Utah was to watch BYU finally beat Boise State in football.

Natali (11) transitioned seamlessly to middle school.  She hasn’t skipped a beat academically, ran cross country, began viola lessons, and continues to sing in a children’s choir and play the piano.  She’s mostly independent and always helpful.  She’ll be thoroughly pleased with this drab but truthful account of her year (she’ll roll her eyes and say, “Daaad,” when she reads this).     

Mack (10) moved up to tackle football with his friends despite qualifying to play flag football for an extra year because of his girth.  He made a few tackles and thoroughly enjoyed himself.  He also played spring soccer which I coached, indoor soccer, basketball, and golf—who needs video games?  He lasted about 8 months without a haircut—during which time we learned that his hair has more curl and body than is fair for a boy.  He was the only kid on his team who looked better after wearing his football helmet.  His Dame Easton Dame temper flared one day and left his glasses in enough pieces that Duck Tape couldn’t salvage them. He loved explaining why his glasses didn’t sit on straight while he waited for a new pair.

Andrew (8) was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in June.  A few months later he grew out of an old belt.  When we threw it away we noticed the size on the label: 6-18 months.  Sounds like he may get the chance to play flag football again too!  During parent/teacher conference at school his patient teacher told us about his lack of “impulse control.”  That’s not how we describe it at our house…

Kate (6) learned to ride her bike after the summer was over without the help of extended family (my brother had to teach Andrew last year).  To our surprise and excitement Kate has decided that jumping rope is fun—she detests all other activities in her PE class at school.  She decided a short haircut would be better than allowing Mom to comb her hair, so off it went.  When Andrew used a green marker on her hair she tried to use Chapstick to remove the color but it only left a greasy mess.  It is fun to be 6.

Emily (3) found a new favorite book titled The Uglified Ducky about a moose calf raised by a family of ducks.  We made several efforts to find a Gronk Aroo (the noise the moose makes in the story) this year but she’s still looking.  She wakes up each morning with a simple request, “Can you read to me?”  None of us are good at turning her down.   She absolutely refuses to eat fruits or vegetables so we let her eat Vitamin C pills to keep the scurvy away.  We keep thinking she’ll lose her favored sibling spot to Lily, but she’s so sweet they may end up sharing it.

Lily (10 months) —Lily Ellen, the 6th and final member of this Easton generation was born February 4th and after 10 months I’m ready to concede to Lisa that we finally got a little brown-eyed baby to match her (1 out of 6, so much for dominant genes). Though our heaviest child at birth, 7 lbs. 11 oz, she quickly slipped off the growth chart like the rest of her siblings and has since settled in at the 2nd percentile for weight.   After 6 kids I’ve decided that I love the babies best.  Taking baby duty is also a great way to get out of other less pleasant tasks around the house.   

Lisa (33 and decidedly unpregnant!) drove a hard bargain to be excluded from the letter in exchange for her editing contribution…maybe next year.

Greg (35) tried hard not to be a fun vacuum this year but probably didn’t succeed.  I needed the Heimlich maneuver from a swift thinking colleague at dinner on a trip to Brazil—luckily I didn’t need to say “Help! I’m choking!” in Portuguese.

Books of the year—Turn Right at Machu Picchu, 1493, Approaching Zion, If you Lived Here I would Know your Name, Glass Castle, and Gifted Hands.

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sunny (and Rainy) San Diego

This spring I was so frustrated with all the fighting my kids were doing.  I kept praying for a solution.  Early one morning I got my answer; we all needed to be reading our scriptures each day on our own.  I challenged our three oldest kids to read the whole Book of Mormon by the end of August.  We started the first weekend in April- so that meant reading around three pages a day.  The motivation…a trip to San Diego for all who finished.  It was amazing what happened.  Mack read 50 pages one Sunday and finished the whole book more than a month early.  His attitude and temper totally changed.  He was calm when provoked and he and Andrew's fighting nearly disappeared.  It was so wonderful.  He even recognized the difference on his own.  As a parent, the experience was so rewarding.  Natali, Greg, and I pushed along slow but steady.  Andrew fell further and further behind, till he was needing to read six pages a day to finish.  He preferred reading with someone which was rather difficult facilitate everyday.  Luckily, he has some wonderful grandparents who sat through hours of Face Time calls to read with him, and he made it!

They had to wait till the end of November but the day finally arrived and we headed out on the kids first airplane trip since leaving New Hampshire 7 years ago.  Their first airport experience was a 3 hour delay in Boise, but we finally made it to California.  Kate and Emily got to stay with Grandma and thought they were the lucky ones.

We did lots of fun stuff on the trip but we forgot the real camera, so these are all phone pics.  They got to see their California cousins and loved hanging out, running a 5K, making smores cookies, playing in the black tunnel, tether ball, and four wheeling.

The highlight of the trip was probably the Zoo.  It was amazing!  We were there in the rain, which kept the crowds down.  We loved every minute of it - I especially loved the aviaries.  Andrew had his fill of pleasures and took dozens of pictures of this cougar.
We had to send this Flamingo picture to the little girls back home.
We got the added fun of meeting a little cousin at the zoo and hanging out with her while her mom visited the doctor .

The panda mom and baby were so incredible.  The baby was way up in the tree.  I wished I could stay and watch how she would get down.
The best part of the zoo was when Andrew got to help with the Sea Lion show.  He got to pet the Sea Lion, have it whisper in his ear and give him a high five.  We have it all on video - but no pictures.  It was probably one of his favorite parts of the trip.
We also went aboard the USS Midway, an air craft carrier turned into a museum.  Our audio tour walked us around the ship and taught us amazing things about life at sea.  Greg decided he was far to tall to be a sailor, and I am far too clumsy.  I would have had black and blue shins from forgetting to step over the door ways.  It wasn't first on the kids list of places to go but almost everyone loved it.
The Brig
Natali operating the engine room

The Medical Facilities
This plaque says "If you have not brushed and flossed your teeth do so now."  We wanted one for our boys bathroom. 

Andrew didn't love the Midway because of its lack of wildlife and the pressure to complete a work sheet intended for kids to fill out and get a prize.  That unfortunately lead to a little drama but the rest of us managed to enjoy the tour in spite of his tantrum.  I really loved it and loved the view and sunshine from the deck.
We had to stop at the beach.  When you only see the ocean once a year or so it is hard to resist the call of the waves.  The kids rolled their pants higher and higher till they were so soaked it didn't matter.  Andrew fell over a few times and was wet head to toe.  They loved it, but sadly when it is 62 degrees outside and you are drenched in freezing sea water, the fun can't last too long before you are chilly.

It was a cold wet ride back to the hotel.

We also visited: 
The Safari Park with two of Greg's sisters and their families.  The kids loved being with cousins and seeing the elephant show.  The tram ride was amazing and we got to see matting rhinos in action ( that was a funny conversation).  
The Mormon Battalion Museum was really well done.  The video presentation was creative and the kids loved panning for gold in the rain.
The Gas Lamp District was pretty lame since we are not into shopping, but a little Ghirardelli ice cream made it totally worth it.

The kids loved being with cousins and seeing the amazing sites a city has to offer.  I don't know what their favorite part was - it might have been as simple as having soda on the airplane (at least for Mack that was a highlight of the trip).  I loved getting to spend time with just my big kids.  People made tons of comments about how many kids we had - we didn't bother telling them we left two at home.  We all had a blast and now the kids are dreaming of next time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mack's Hair

After the staples in the head Mack got out of a few hair cuts.  Then he just refused to let me cut it.  So that hair got longer and longer and surprised us with how much wave it had.  We already knew he had crazy calics but the waves were new.  He went to school some mornings with pretty crazy hair.

This goofy look was created with a brush and some bed head.

And this fabulous swirl was a work of art one Sunday morning.  Right out of Whoville huh?

Yet, there were times when his hair looked like he could be in a boy band.  It was hard to come by, that look only happened after several sweaty hours running around with a football helmet on.
He finally got tired of having the hair in his eyes when he played football so off the hair came.  It was a wild adventure every morning trying to tame it, but I kind of miss it (don't tell Mack).

First Year of Tackle

Mack loved his first year of tackle.  I watched every game in fear of my scrawny, 50lb, 10 year old getting hurt.  He made it through the season unharmed and can't wait to do it again.  I filmed some of the games but failed to catch his one touchdown on video or camera.  In fact, all of these pics came from the team mom.  Thank goodness for good friends.  Mack didn't carry the ball much but he did make one 20+ yard touchdown, which sadly didn't count because of a holding penalty, but he felt the thrill of it.  
 He is the only kid on the team with goggle glasses, so he is easy to pick out.

 There he is, number 10.

Family Pictures 2013