Holiday Letter 2010

January, 2011


Belated Holiday Greetings from Elmira, New York where a new winter tradition (to go along with the better-than-natural-green-spray-painted-wreath and doing our Holiday Letter in January) seems to have developed: the home ice skating rink. An ice rink is the kind of do-it-yourself project that really invites the question: “What could go wrong?” The list is long and marriages have ended for less. More on that later.

This past year was a quiet one. No extended vacations in exotic locations. No long-term house guests. Not much at all to look back on from the safety of December that seems worth sharing at the cost of whatever a stamp costs these days. Which is why this letter is late. And short. We promise to collectively live more story-worthy lives in 2011 (collecting stories is, after all, the best kind of collecting).

So, what did happen in 2010?

On the home improvement front, 2010 saw the reintroduction of dependably hot water to our house. We are pretty sure “reintroduction” is the proper word though no one here can actually remember a time when we were guaranteed a hot shower. While our very nice, but time-challenged, plumber was adding a zone for the new hot water system he also added zones for the garage and the third floor. An old holiday letter, perhaps from 2003 or 2004, may have mentioned that Eric was going to get heat in his third floor office. Almost there. Also, when we wrote last, we mentioned that The Roof Project was still active, but was getting close to completion. We are happy to report that the roof is now complete. If you don’t count the gutters. Which we will not. So we can count the roof as complete.

With that elephant off the tracks the Home Improvement Express should be running again at its (modest) top speed. Look for a long list of attempted projects next year. Eric has already begun writing the December, 2011 Holiday Letter . . . “In 2011 we doubled the number of bathrooms in the house from three to six. Well . . . this does depend a little bit on what you mean by “bathroom” . . . and “house”. We added a full bath to what was formerly the garage and is now a workshop. We’ll count this one, even though you have to walk outside (if you are in the house, you don’t have to leave the garage) to use it. The reasoning behind a garage bathroom is not clear to everyone, but it should be obvious by 2016. We also converted a closet on the second floor to a bathroom. This one takes a bit of “tricky accounting” as the conversion simply involved emptying stuff from the room. It was a bathroom when we bought the house, but it was never used as one and was quickly filled with . . . crap. Yes, we had been using a bathroom as a closet since 1999. We also use the back stairway as a closet, the pantry as a closet and a 7-by-10 room on the second floor that doesn’t seem to have any better reason for being there as a closet. But, we digress. Finally, the three to six change, also assumes you are willing to count the utility sink near Eric’s basement office as a bathroom. Eric does.”

We still have two children, but on the bright side they are getting closer and closer to “boarding school age”.

There is a saying about the apple not falling far from the tree, but that does not seem to apply to Connor. In fact, the list of similarities between Connor and his parents is short enough to pass along in entirety:


1. Connor and Ellen both have a fondness for chocolate.

2. Connor and Eric both have a Y chromosome.

Connor made it through another year which is no small feat if you are Connor. To repeat ourselves from our 2009 update: He maintains a surprising level of inner confidence when faced with novel scenarios despite the fact that all of the history he has experienced should make new things terrifying.” Connor handles new situations like a deer handles headlights. In a sense, the whole world is a giant obstacle course cleverly designed to trip him up in the most insidious of ways. Fortunately, he has Ellen to properly motivate him when dealing which such hurdles as table manners and proper attire when showing up for breakfast. Underwear, at least, is mandatory and, as Connor now knows, when told to put some on the correct response is not: “Why doesn’t my penis amuse you?”. His sense of humor is good. His sense of when to display his sense of humor needs some work.

While novel situations can be tricky for Connor very few people benefit as much from repetition. What he lacks in decisiveness he more than makes up for with perseverance. And, of course, he becomes the most lovable person ever when he is sick.

And then there is Kate.

Kate seemed very normal this year which is no small feat if you are Kate. When you match Kate’s complete lack of empathy with her rare mixture of initiative and decisiveness you have what some might call an accident waiting to happen. Of course, those people don’t know Kate like we know Kate. With Kate, it’s never an accident.

As usual, it’s perhaps best to use Kate’s own words to paint the picture:

After the earthquake in Haiti, Kate offered her opinion on rebuilding after being apprised of the extent of the damages and the significant loss of life: “It should be easier to fix all of their problems now that they have fewer people.”

When someone commented during a card game how nicely Kate was playing: “I’d be ruthless if I had the proper cards.”

One day last year, out of the blue. Kate: “God doesn’t exist, does he?” Eric: “Why do you say that?” Kate: “There’s no evidence.”

While Ellen was trying to brush her hair before school: “Don’t fix that. That hair represents me. I’m a wild lady.”

The Reader’s Digest version of the rest of 2010:

January: Ellen decided we needed an ice rink. Ellen had fun skating. Connor had fun skating. Kate had fun skating. Eric hurt his knee. And his elbow. February: Kate admitted she had a “terribly stupid habit” of touching everything with both hands. Connor attended a funeral with Nerf guns, a pocketful of candy and a Soduko book. One of his parents advised him that any time you go to church you must bring your own entertainment. March: Eric considered giving-up his New Year’s resolutions for Lent. Connor turned 9. Kate turned 7. At Kate’s party, during a game in which one player draws something and the other guesses, Kate was shown a triangle that was then bisected. Her guess? “Line of symmetry”? April: Ellen instigated a trip to Washington DC and Hershey’s Chocolate World. We spent three days in Washington counting down the time to Chocolate World. May: Little League baseball took up the entire month. June: Ellen, Connor and Kate went to Atlanta for some reason. Kate retired from first grade. Connor finished third grade. July: Eric went to Massachusetts. Connor and Kate spent a week of days at vacation Bible school. Eric spent a week of nights deprogramming his children. The family got a kitten. Eric discovered how far from kitten-proof his office was. August: Eric renewed Ellen’s contract as ‘wife’ for another year. September: Eric was a nominal participant in a triathlon. October: Ellen went to Las Vegas for several days leaving Eric in charge of the children; this pretty much ended Ellen’s chances of winning “Mother of the Year”. November: Ellen was very happy and made cookies. December: Eric raised his estimate of his own parenting skills from Average-Minus to Average-Plus.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting year,

Eric, Ellen, Connor and Kate

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