Holiday Letter 2005

December 2005

Friends-

Holiday Greetings from Elmira, New York where we are all beginning to appreciate Global Warming. With only a handful of shopping days remaining in the year we have so far been uninterrupted by those interesting events that sometimes seem to make time pass more slowly. That’s not say that the only variety we have is of the “what’s for dinner?” kind. It’s not even to say that the best variety we have is of the “what’s for dinner?” kind. It’s just that most of the variety we have that can’t be placed on a menu is in the form of the loud noises Connor and Kate make when expressing themselves. A year has past since we last wrote, but things are very much the same here. Connor and Kate are growing . . . but still small. Eric’s office is progressing . . . but still unfinished. Our sand and gravel piles are shrinking . . . but still there. Ellen’s sister went away . . . but came back.

Death and taxes may be unavoidable for the unimaginative, but our constants here are construction and noise. Construction is a constant, at least when the definition of the word is expanded to include a project that has had some work done, needs more work done, but is not currently having work done. We have (almost) completed a bathroom renovation this year and our downstairs has experienced some major . . . changes. The noise here is enough to have almost driven Eric from the house. After six years of isolation in the house, Eric was feeling a little too unisolated and felt it necessary to rent an office in a not-too-distant building. The noise has not yet been bad enough to force Eric to actually go and occupy it. Yes, Eric has been renting an office in downtown Elmira for 6 months. In it is a desk, a chair . . . but no Eric.

We did manage a week long family vacation. A trip to the Outer Banks with some of Ellen’s nudist friends. Thirteen hours in the car. Each way. With Kate. This was an experience that could have put the entire family into therapy for years, but with a few little tricks that can’t be committed to permanent record we managed to get through the drive with a “It could have been worse” perspective. The stay in the Outer Banks was rather enjoyable, but you may ask how such a thing happened after Eric swore-off traveling with his youngest child. Trickery. Ellen used the time-honored trick of asking Eric many months in advance. Or, Ellen told Eric that he agreed to go on the trip many months prior. One of the two. Eric won’t fall for that one again. Of course, Ellen is a special kind of sneaky and will probably trick Eric into another family trip before the children are shipped off to boarding school. We know Ellen is a special kind of sneaky because Kate must get it from somewhere.

The kids are doing well. Connor is, for the most part, a kind, gentle, considerate, polite, affectionate and caring person. At 3 am, when he often comes to visit us, he’s always ready with a “could you make room for one more?” or an “I’m very pleased to see you guys”. Clearly he gets all of this from his mother. Connor, however, is consistently exhibiting one piece of behavior that indicates he may not be as bright as we once thought . . . he continues to tease his sister. Everyone else seems to recognize this as a bad idea for reasons other than it violating the inviolate rule “Don’t tease your sister”. The tables are going to turn here. Soon. And while Connor is a kind, gentle, considerate, polite, affectionate and caring person; Kate is not. Recently, when a commercial interrupted “The Wizard of Oz”, Kate became upset because she wanted “the naughty witch to come back”. Our two year old’s idol? The Wicked Witch of the West.
Kate turned two this year. And, for a long time, that’s all this note had to offer about Kate. Kate poses a dilemma. On the one hand, we would like to mention our youngest child. On the other hand, we don’t want to speak ill of our youngest child. And when we say “speak” we mean “leave any discernable evidence that Kate may later find”. Lying was an option, but only one of Eric and Ellen had no reservations about lying to the recipients of this letter (those being our friends and Ellen’s family). So let us leave it at this: more than one person has suggested an exorcism. If Kate does not follow in the footsteps of Lex Luther, Professor Moriarty or Dr. Evil we will consider it a major accomplishment. Raising an evil genius can be a challenge for any parent.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting new year,

Eric, Ellen, Connor & Kate

Holiday Letter 2004

December 2004
Friends-

Holiday Greetings from Elmira, New York, where The Home School Experiment has begun. The fact that Connor is not yet reading is causing some difficulties, but it makes deciding what to teach first pretty easy. With the help of educational TV and videos Eric figures this home schooling thing will take about two hours a day of Eric’s time. Ellen is skeptical, but Eric has spent even less time than that so far.

A pleasingly uninteresting year on the home front. No car accidents, no foster children, no new babies. We even skipped our annual summer gathering. We did have Ellen’s sister Monica here for a long, long, long time. The extra dishes to wash and the occasional errand Ellen does for her sister have been a boon in helping to fill Ellen’s free time.

Ellen seems to be interested in home improvement again, so changes are happening. A second floor bathroom awaits its fate. The shed out back is becoming (in the loosest sense of the word “becoming”, but the phrase “awaiting the arrival of a contractor who apparently has better things to do until the weather warms before becoming” seemed awkward as anything other than a parenthetical remark) a playhouse. Eric’s office is getting closer to completion. The stained glass windows, completed in 2002 (and started before recorded history), are now installed. For those of you keeping score at home you may note that Eric’s office project began in 2001. Our 2002 Holiday greeting noted that piles of sand and gravel cluttered our parking lot and that an old stone barbecue was being . . . improved. Still working on those.

The kids are doing well. After an extremely needy first six months, Kate has become very independent. Scarily independent. We are still waiting on Connor to become independent. Kate is out of the closet in the maid’s quarters (the house has a maid’s suite – the house does not have a maid), which served Connor well before her, and into her own room. Not much to say about Kate as you really have to be near her to appreciate her. Actually, you need to be near her when she’s in a good mood to appreciate her; otherwise the best you can do is appreciate Ellen a little bit more. There will be no family roadtrips in 2005 as Eric and Kate don’t travel well together. Since we won’t be traveling and Kate is best appreciated in person, everyone who reads this should come and visit. Anytime works for us.

As Kate continues to test Ellen’s sense of humor, Connor continues to demonstrate his. We have dozens of amusing Connor anecdotes, but here are two little ones. Sometime early in 2004, before Connor turned three, Kate was crawling on the floor in the kitchen after Oliver the cat. Eric said “Connor, don’t chase Oliver” to Kate. Connor looked-up, puzzled and Eric, realizing his mistake, said “I called Kate ‘Connor’; but, don’t worry, I can tell you two apart.” Connor, without missing a beat, replied: “Why did you call Kate ‘Connor’, Connor? Ha, ha Daddy. I called you ‘Connor'”. Over the summer, Monica’s friend Tracey came to visit for a couple of days. She laid down on Connor’s bed and made the claim, “This is my bed now”. Connor, after determining that Tracey wasn’t moving soon and assessing his prospects for physically moving her, quickly turned it into a battle of wits and said: “I wouldn’t touch that pillow with my head Miss Tracey. I get chunks out of my nose and wipe them on the pillow.” As Tracey jumps out of the bed Connor hops in with a “Ha, ha. Just kidding Miss Tracey.”

Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting new year,

Eric, Ellen, Connor & Kate

Holiday Letter 2003

December 2003

Friends-

Holiday Greetings from Elmira, New York, home of the Mark Twain Country Club, Mark Twain Inn, Mark Twain Museum and Mark Twain grave site. It’s also the home of Kate Holland Hanson. Kate, born on March 11th, is happy, healthy, bright and has the largest wardrobe ever amassed by an infant. Kate now has more clothes than Eric has had in his entire life. She also has a head of comic proportions. And we mean that in the nicest way possible.

Aside from Kate being born, which was not insignificant, there was not much else to report on the home front.We did have a foster child for a few months, but when Ellen rolled her SUV in August Eric cleverly seized on Ellen’s hospital stay as a cause to end that nightmare scenario. It’s not as if Chemung County would have been comfortable with Eric looking after one of their charges in any case. Ellen is, more or less, fully functional again; and not a moment too soon as the snows have come and someone has to shovel the driveway.

Home ownership was less stressful this year as we’ve basically given-up. Connor’s room was completed since we last wrote and the house was painted. The latter was Ellen’s idea and was no small feat. First Ellen had to select a painter, which meant getting quotes. Those of you that know Ellen know that she likes to comparison shop. When the first quote came in at over $8000, which even Eric thought was a bit much for our house, which is brick, it was apparent that we would have several painters visiting. In the end Ellen selected a guy who subcontracted to a gut who subcontracted to a guy who came to Ellen for advice. He asked her questions like “How the hell am I going to paint those peaks?” and “Do you have any scaffolding laying around that we can use?”. Beyond that, replacing our garbage disposal and putting a new coat of paint on the world’s oldest natural Christmas wreath may have been the highlights. We also had more than our share of website, email and computer difficulties this past year. Basically the website and associated email addresses from years past have been down for the last six months. A new site (www.logicaloperator.com/hanson/) is now up and running.

In his third year now, Connor has, as far as he knows, started school. He may be in for a shock when the schooling starts and he no longer spends his school hours working with paper scissors and finger-paints, but Ellen (and others) felt that if he was going to spend large blocks of time with Eric it was best that he had a social grounding first. As an example of Connor’s interpersonal skills, yesterday after being scolded by Ellen and sent to his room Connor returned to the scene of the crime to set his mother straight. Connor, pointing to a stool, said “You sit down right there mommy. That makes me feel very sad. That’s the problem here. You hurt my feelings.” He turned his back on her and went and stared out the window. You really had to be there to appreciate what we are up against.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting year,

Eric, Ellen, Connor & Kate

Holiday Letter 2002

December 2002

Friends-

Holiday Greetings from Elmira, New York, home of the country’s oldest natural pine wreath (please see last year’s note). We have grown a year wiser here, assuming, of course, that wisdom can be measured in years. Most of Eric’s new found wisdom comes in the parenting department. Things that Ellen seemed to be aware of going in have come a little slower to Eric. This will surprise very few of you.

Little nuggets of wisdom recently acquired include:

  • A toddler should not be given a bat in the kitchen. Or a broom.
  • A little boy –this may apply to little girls as well– with a bowl of oatmeal should never be left unattended – not even in a highchair. The highchair, in fact, only increases his range.
  • Children will cry. Try and enjoy the sound. Temper tantrums can be amusing if you just get in the right frame of mind.
  • All over-the-counter sedatives say “Do not to give to children under age 2”. Eric still thinks it was worth checking.
  • Nothing teaches “safety-first” like a good fall.
  • Socks can be kept on with duct tape. Who would have thought?

Home ownership continues to take a toll on us. Our parking lot has a large pile of sand and a large pile of gravel – remnants of a stone walkway project started in May. The adventure was put on hold when our stone-walkway-builder took off for Hollywood. Roughly 30 feet of the 160 proposed feet of walkways have been completed. Trenches criss-cross our back yard making night-time volleyball dangerous and croquet impossible. Also, the stone barbeque in the back yard is half demolished as part of what also promises to be a long-term . . . something. The proper word eludes us at the moment. We had hoped to report that Eric’s office remodeling project had been completed, 2 years and 8 months after it was started, but it is still not quite there. It is close enough to completion that Eric has been relocated back up to the attic, doubling the distance of his morning commute (not to mention his distance from the kitchen). The contractors will have to work around him the rest of the way. Next on Eric’s list is converting the entire basement into a rec room. A bar, pool table, race track, foosball, pinball, home theatre – the works. Ellen’s list may vary slightly. For those of you scoring at home you may have noticed that these two sentences also appeared in last year’s Holiday note. Eric’s list is not the one we are working off of.
Before we forget – Ellen is six months pregnant with what appears to be a girl (at least to those people familiar with looking at sonograms of what vaguely resembles a small person curled into a ball) and we are having a bit of trouble agreeing on a name so we would appreciate everyone weighing in on these choices:

  • Sophia Holland Hanson, “Sophie”
  • Molly Kate Hanson, “Molly” or “Kate”
  • Katherine Claire Hanson, “Kate”
  • Claire Holland Hanson, “Claire”
  • Alix Shea Hanson, “Ali” or “Alix”
  • Madeline Claire Hanson, “Maddie” (After our neighbor’s dog.)
  • Molly Catherine Hanson, “Molly” or “Cate”

Finally, for those of you trying to keep up with Connor’s exploits it’s best to visit the website (www.newyorklogic.com/hanson/) frequently. As an added attraction, Eric is working on a page for the website listing all of the great reasons to come to New York’s Southern Tier and, perhaps, stop by our place. In his second year Connor has now learned his colors (at least the ten he needs if he does not pursue a career as an interior designer), added a couple of trips to Philadelphia and one to Nantucket to his growing list of adventures, figured out the counting thing up to six (“None, two, tree, four, five, six, many.” Seven seems a ways off now, but I’m sure it will be here before we know it), memorized a few books, awarded Ellen three separate nicknames and been photographed an additional 1017 times by Ellen. He still doesn’t have a girlfriend, has demonstrated some odd compulsive behavior and has shown no desire to get a job and move out of the house. We may be stuck with him forever.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting year,
Eric, Ellen & Connor

Holiday Letter 2001

December 2001

Friends-

Season’s Greetings from Elmira, New York where the times remain interesting. We are a larger family this year by about 25 pounds, all of that attributable to the newly arrived (March 19, 2001) John Connor Hanson. Of course, we have been a larger family each of the last four years as well, but previously Eric had been solely responsible for the gain.

The holiday wreath on our door has entered its third year of service which is very impressive for a natural wreath (please read last year’s holiday note to see how this is possible). It is joined on the house this year by another perfectly good, and very large, pine wreath that some unresourceful person left on the curb after last year’s holiday season. Eric still remembers how excited Ellen and her mom were when they returned home after that find. Holiday decorating at the Hanson house doesn’t stop with a couple of well-preserved wreaths. All year the entrance to our library is guarded by a two-foot Santa and adorned with little, white lights. Santa can also be found in the dining room, foyer and on the living room mantle. Wreaths and pine boughs abound. A ‘Christmas Village’ has materialized on the pool table.

Home ownership has become a bit less stressful this year as we have lowered our expectations and extended our timeline on many projects. Eric’s 10 day office remodeling project that was entering its sixth month when we wrote last winter is now entering month eighteen, but Ellen has completed a few of the projects she has instigated. The dining room, with help from Mama Roe, no longer sports the ‘Christmas wrap’ wallpaper that was such a conversation starter, one of the upstairs bathrooms that we never use has been redone with help from Papa Roe Remodeling and the stone piles in the backyard have been restacked into walls with help from the Johnny P Construction Company. Unfortunately, the availability of these reliable contractors is spotty; while the reliability of the available contractors seems to be a bit more questionable. A case in point, one fine day early this summer a man stops at the house and asks if we need any trees taken down. “Isn’t this fortuitous”, we think, because, coincidently we need four very, very dead trees taken down. So, Eric explains to the man that we need these trees taken down as he walks around the yard pointing out each of the four. After the second crash Eric goes out to check the progress and sees a medium size pine tree down. To paraphrase the exchange that takes place as the tree guy explains how he cut down the live pine tree twenty feet away from the dead cherry tree:

Tree guy: “The bark looks the same, but you’d think I would have figured it out when I was up there cutting down all those branches with pine needles.”

Eric: “Actually, I was hoping you would have figured it out before then.”

Next on Eric’s list is converting the entire basement into a rec room. A bar, pool table, race track, foosball, pinball, home theatre – the works. Ellen’s list may vary slightly.

For those of you trying to keep up with Connor’s exploits it’s best to visit the website frequently. In his first nine months Connor has now outgrown three age groups worth of clothing, taken his first steps, raised his vocabulary to three words, gotten his first two teeth, invented several new games involving food, appeared on TV, visited Atlanta, Boston and New York City, seen a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, gone hiking in Vermont twice, hit the rides at Six Flags-Darien Lake and been photographed 1319 times by Ellen.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting year,

Eric, Ellen & Connor

Holiday Letter 2000

December 2000

Friends-

Season’s Greetings from Elmira, New York where we are pioneering the recycling of holiday wreaths. Ellen cleverly saved the pine wreath which hung upon our front door last holiday season. This year that same wreath, covered in Better-than-Natural Green spray paint, adorns our house yet again. It’s been another interesting year in the Hanson household.

Among the things we’ve learned in the past year is that home ownership isn’t for everyone. It is also full of surprises. We had a surprise this March when the snow melted we found that the lazy bastards who sold us the house previous owners had left us some raking to do. Enough raking to fill one-hundred-twenty large garbage bags. For those of you not familiar with the City of Elmira’s rules for trash removal, that is roughly one-hundred-fourteen more bags than they will remove per week. Our garage became a compost heap.

Once the bags of leaves were safely stored in the garage we were able to address other issues including: the relative sparsity of grass in the yard (still an issue), Eric’s insistence that a basketball hoop be installed (one was – though maybe not quite the one Eric had in mind), Ellen’s insistence that Eric get a large life-insurance policy (he did), Eric’s insistence that last year’s Christmas tree be taken down (it was – in late February), Eric’s one week remodeling project of his third floor office (in it’s sixth month now), the remodeling of a second floor bedroom (done – this was our last joint project), Ellen’s refinishing of the library floor (done – this was a bigger task than it sounds), Ellen’s remodeling of another second floor bedroom (almost done), Ellen’s insistence that she be pregnant (she is), Eric’s insistence that he acquire a new sports car to get him through his mid-life crisis (one was – though definitely not the one Eric had in mind [it had no room for a car seat]), Ellen’s remodeling of a second floor bathroom (almost done), Eric’s rewiring of his temporary second floor office while construction continues on his third floor office (done), repairs to the slate roof (started – warning: these things can be expensive), raking of the yard this fall (done – with the help of a leaf-sweeper contraption), and preparation of the nursery for the arrival of John Connor Hanson (moving slow – the local artist hired to do the murals [Eric’s father] – has been rather self-paced). The two major issues remaining seem to be training Eric to make the bed in the morning and training Eric to put garbage in the garbage can.

On January 1, Eric and Ellen will be hosting the New Year’s Day Bowl Game Party. This kicks-off at 11:00 am with the Cotton and Outback Bowls. The Gator, Citrus, Rose and Fiesta Bowls follow. Consider this an invitation. For information, directions, a schedule of upcoming events or just to talk to Ellen please call (607) 732-3697, email or visit our website.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and an interesting year,

Eric & Ellen