Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Obligatory End-of-Year Recap
So the idea is that we put the obligatory holiday letter on the blog, you can read it at your leisure (or in installments – like a serial in the newspaper!). Additional 2009 photos are in the “year in pictures” section to the right (click on the slide show to enlarge it and view captions) and elsewhere on this site. Hope that you stay awhile and visit us often!
We’ll start with the youngest (human) member of the family (who, oddly, refers to people AS humans – as in, “The other humans at the party were Camden and Zachary”):
PARKER, Age 5
Pop culture counterpart: Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother.” Parker has a – shall we say healthy? – sense of self-worth. (“Mom, know why I always beat you in the Uglydoll game? ‘Cause I’m awesome.”) He also loves the ladies and won’t leave the house until he is sure that he “looks handsome.” We still haven’t stopped laughing at the pick-up line that he unleashed on one of his little friends at the tender age of three: “Ella, your hair looks pretty today. By the way, I’m wearing underwear; I don’t wear Pull Ups anymore.”
His best girl (well, perhaps on par with preschool girlfriend Avery, “best friend who is a girl” Lauren Grace, and family friends “Baby Greenleigh” and “Baby Allison”), I am proud to say, is his mom. He frequently tells me that he loves me, that I am pretty, that he likes what I am wearing, etc., and of course I just melt. Both parents are treated with the same endearing morning ritual Monday through Friday – before going into preschool, we “high five, fist bump, ear honk [a couple of rapid tugs on the earlobe], kiss and give a BIG SQUEEZE.” (Pretty sure that Dad’s fingerprints are all over this ritual – the ear honk bears a certain Parnell signature – but I’m honored to be a participant nonetheless.)
Nickname: The King of Chicken (a title that he gave himself, in recognition of the fact that he would eat chicken at every meal, every day, day in and day out).
Favorite word: “Actually.”
Favorite things: Batman. Also Batman. And Batman. Honorable mention goes to other DC Comics superheroes* (but they all take a backseat to Batman) and Transformers. But we really, REALLY like Batman. Did I mention Batman?
(* For some reason that cannot be fully explained, we are DC snobs. Connor got offended when Parker received Marvel Comics action figures at his Justice League birthday party, and I was embarrassed to acknowledge that I had the same reaction.)
Hobbies: Does annoying his brother count? Or watching Justice League cartoons on a continuous loop? Like Connor, he swings a mean tennis racket, both in the real world and in the virtual “Wii Sports” world. (Actually, Parker’s quite adept at all of the Wii Sports games, and if you ever see him play Wii boxing, you’ll think twice about crossing him in a dark alley. He’s little, but he’s very, very scrappy – and pretty much a natural athlete. No doubt we have soccer games in our immediate future.) He loves to sing, and he is looking forward to joining the children’s choir at First Methodist next year.
Current employment: Preschooler at Baylor All Saints. He was a little confused when he turned five in October and did not immediately start kindergarten the next day! He is very much aware of the fact that Connor’s beloved kindergarten teacher, Ms. Sylvester, is postponing her retirement for a year just to have the privilege of teaching Parker. Mom is pretty shameless about throwing this in the child’s face: “You know, you’re really going to have to get out of the habit of [fill in the blank], because Ms. Sylvester won’t allow that in her classroom.” (Hey, whatever works, right?)
Future career: We probably have an actor on our hands. Big brother, with his distinct engineer’s bent, was all about designing layouts for Thomas the Tank Engine, but could not have cared one whit about the characters. Parker is happy to put the track in a circle (or do without track altogether), but all of the characters have distinct voices, and they all have back stories. Ask Parker to sing a children’s (or any) song for you, and you are likely to get several bonus verses – whatever springs spontaneously from his creative brain.
If the performing arts don’t pan out for him, he could make quite a career with the Webster’s Dictionary folks, having already added to the lexicon such gems as “graymote” (referring to the gray DVR remote), “to-morning” (contraction of “tomorrow morning”) and “random oranges” (you have to admit, mandarin oranges are sort of random).
CONNOR, Age 10
Pop culture counterpart: Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory.” Same strict dietary requirements, same fashion sense and low maintenance grooming regimen, same obsession with science, and same relentlessly logical brain. A Sheldon quote from the second season: “I couldn’t become Green Lantern unless I was chosen by the Guardians of Oa, but given enough startup capital and an adequate research facility, I could be Batman.” Actual Connor quote (age 4): “Spiderman is a superhero because he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Superman is a superhero because he was born an alien. But Batman is a superhero because he is smart and good in business.” After Connor broke his arm in September, I sought to reassure him while we waited for his x-rays with a motherly (and entirely honest) “if it makes you feel any better, my right elbow is aching in sympathy for you.” Connor’s response: “Why would that make me feel better?”
Nickname: Well, I call him Mr. Spock – and it fits (see above).
One more Sheldon/Spock-ism for the road - while (appropriately?) watching a scene from “Star Trek Zero” where Captain Kirk is marooned on an ice planet by his own crew and then chased by two vicious ice beasts, Connor leaned over and whispered, “Why would they maroon him on a planet where his life would be at risk?”
“Well, the onboard computer warned him of the danger and told him to stay in the ship until the authorities came for him, but he was a hothead and blew the hatch.”
“Mom, it’s an ice planet. Anyone’s head would be hot in comparison to the outside air temperature.”
Favorite word: All of them. Apparently he thinks he has run out of English two-dollar words, as he has begun to work French into conversation, and he has asked his mother to teach him German.
Favorite things: LEGOs, Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars (and all of the other LEGO computer and video games – Indiana Jones, Batman, Rock Band), the Beatles, the Percy Jackson book series and anything related to Greek mythology.
Hobbies: Tennis and swim team at Ridglea Country Club (he will be adding diving to his repertoire next summer), Cub Scouts (Connor and Dad are quite the pinewood and space derby team – Connor brings the passion for engineering, Dad brings the natural competitiveness that comes with being one of four boys!), art, music, and Junior Worship Leaders at First United Methodist Church (“Junior Worship Leaders” being code for “choir for kids who think that they are too cool to be in choir”).
Current employment: Fourth grader. And, like most fourth graders, he tends to be, by turns, a little forgetful, occasionally distracted, and more than a little cocky. Result: he completed his history fair research well in advance of the deadline, but he didn’t commit any of it to paper (at least, not in a way that could be glued to a backboard) until the night before. We try very hard not to be helicopter parents, so we recognized a “teaching moment” when we saw one, placed him in front of the vast, empty backboard and said, “It’s all on you, bud.” Two days later, he came home and announced that he had won the school prize. A week after that, he came home with the Olympic-sized medal awarded to him for winning the district competition. Mom and Dad couldn’t decide whether to be happy or surly . . . .
A month later (what is it with fourth grade teachers and projects?), he waited until the last minute to put together his Invention Convention submission – and forgot that a backboard was involved with THAT project as well, remembering it two hours prior to bedtime the night before. (Note: The backboard was in dad’s car. Apparently, the backboard was QUITE forgettable.) Once again, we warned Connor of the likely consequences of his procrastination. And, once again, he came home with a prize, remarking to his eye-rolling mother, “You know, you keep telling me that I need to change my study habits – but so far, they seem to be generating pretty good results.”
Future career: He’s a born engineer, but if you ask he will tell you that he plans on being a cryptozoologist (translation: he wants to chase mythical creatures, and prove that the Loch Ness Monster is real). He also has a good head for business and is constantly creating business and marketing plans for . . . well, lots of things.
KATHRYN, Age 39 and holding
Pop culture counterpart: Wonder Woman. Or Elastigirl. See below.
Everything else: Work is great, all things considered, and I’m both amazed and pleased at how much work I have on my desk at present, given the state of the economy. However, on the assumption that things would be at least a little slower this year, I agreed to serve as president of the Junior Woman’s Club of Fort Worth (taking office 6/1/09) on the theory that there would never be a better time, so really I have been juggling three jobs – attorney at the office, “development director” at home with the kids, and JWC prez in the space in between. I haven’t regretted the decision, though – what a wonderful group of women, and what fun we have had thus far! I selected “Young at Heart” for this year’s clubwide theme, and my officers have taken that concept and run with it, putting a “Sandlot” spin on our softball tournament in October, throwing a high school homecoming bash (in a real gym!) in November, and hosting a Candy Land-themed holiday open house in December. Morale and membership are up, but I have to give most of the credit to the ladies around me – I just stay out of the way and offer support as needed! One of the perks of the job is that I get to throw a Christmas party for the 50 some-odd executive committee members, standing committee chairs, department presidents and Woman’s Club advisors – so on the evening of 12/17 we are bundling up, boarding a luxury coach (translation: bus with a bathroom!) and heading to Grapevine, Texas to view Christmas lights and attend “Ice” (indoor winter wonderland, complete with ice slides) at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Did I mention that I have a budget for said event? Bonus!
PARNELL, Age . . . a year older than last year
Pop culture counterpart: The married guy/father on “The League” (that incredibly funny new show about fantasy football, which seems to be biographical).
Everything else: Parnell is still playing fantasy football with the same group of guys from law school. Football is big on his mind this holiday season, as both his Horned Frogs and his Longhorns are headed to BCS games. We have a classy and not-at-all-clashing orange-and-purple Christmas light scheme going on in the front yard as a result – and those of you who remember last year’s Christmas light-related fall “with” (not “off of”) the ladder, resulting in a broken arm and two broken ribs, will be pleased to learn that this year he stuck to the archway leading up to the porch, dispensed with the roof and let me spot for him. (Proof that an old dog can learn old tricks! By the way, when we took Connor to the aptly named Dr. Rapp to get his cast in September, long-suffering Dr. Rapp just took a look at us and sighed. Whereupon my ornery husband inquired about the availability of a “frequent faller family discount” . . . .)
Parnell continues to thrive as a solo practitioner and is building his client base at an impressive rate. Most important of all, he is truly happy being on his own, and can I tell you how wonderful it is to be married to someone who is happy in his own skin? He enjoys harrassing his office-dwelling, clock-punching wife with mid-afternoon Friday phone calls announcing that he is laying himself off (or “furloughing” himself) with the expectation that business will pick up and he will rehire himself on Monday. (Okay, perhaps not that funny in the larger context of a bad economy, but he’s earned the right to make some jokes, having fought his fair share of uphill battles to get to where he is today.) I THINK he enjoys his role as JWC “First Man” . . . most of the time, and I am tremendously fortunate that both my spouse and my kids value my JWC friends (and their husbands and children) as much as I do.
I am also fortunate that I married a great father, son and son-in-law who takes advantage of his flexible schedule to serve as a PTA officer (long after I quit that noise!) and assist his mom and my parents and grandmother with all manner of things.
THE BEASTS, Ages . . . various
Our newest Ani-Pal addition has not been assigned a permanent name (Rusty? Ace the Batdog? Cinco?), but he is adorable, and he took to the menagerie like a dream (and they to him). He is a dorgi – half long-haired dachshund, half corgi – and is the living embodiment of the phrase, “the tail wags the dog.” He is so happy to be with a family, and his tail is so large in proportion to his sausage body, that when he gets to wagging, his hips swing back and forth to the point that he crawfishes when he walks. A very funny visual! “Ace” (we’ll use it as a place holder) loves big sister Ruby (nine year-old Sheltie) and follows her to the front door, on constitutionals around the yard, etc. Ruby, for her part, seems pleased as punch to have a minion, and is always looking over her shoulder, making sure that he is following behind.
Max, the youngest (and biggest) of our black-and-white Maine Coon cats, is, like many Maine Coons, convinced that he is, in fact, a dog. Thus, when I get home and call for the dogs, I usually end up with Ace on my lap (I have to pick him up – legs are too short for jumping!), Ruby on one side and Max on the other. Much head- and chin-scratching ensues . . . .
The older cats (Barkley and Gabby, both 13 years old) tolerate the younger crowd. (Barkley did hiss – once – at the newest beast, whereupon Ace barked – once – and we all discovered that he has a surprisingly deep and commanding voice for a little guy. Barkley conceded the point, and harmony was restored.) All five animals are amazingly well-adjusted, loving to one another and exceedingly tolerant of our kids. Hopefully this delicate balance will not be disturbed if/when we finally pull the trigger on the addition to our house, which (I am told) will give us room for fish, a rodent and a bird. (Yeah, Dad threw in the bird request – some help he is! I think he promised the kids the fish and rodent with the expectation that their whining would force me into making a decision on construction plans. What he doesn’t realize is that I have always been fascinated by lizards – so, Parnell, I’ll see your fish, rodent and bird and raise you one gecko.)
Love to everyone, and blessings of peace to you this holiday season and throughout 2010!