As the French are fond of saying, the more things change the more it’s the same thing (the grammar’s better in French, though). The adults have gotten a little older, a bit more like ourselves. The kids, as you can see, are taller and, if possible, leaner. We begin to be able to capture glimpses of their adult faces from time to time. Physically they’ve developed more and more useful skills and this seems to give them confidence in other areas too.
Rose is almost 8 and in second grade. She’s learned to swim (awesome breaststroke, she looks like a baby frog), ski down a beginner ski run (generally not more than once, since the lift scares her), ride a bike, get around tentatively on ice skates, jump rope backwards and hula hoop. She’s also really good at walking around with her knees inside her shirt. She values her time alone and sometimes has to guard it fiercely from her brother. She’s grown very confident at school and she’s amazingly good at running class meetings. Her teachers are impressed that his year she is no longer one of the quiet kids. Reading, math, and writing are starting to be fun for her, too. She occasionally practices being a teenager around the house. She likes to make stuffed toys and doll clothes and write stories and play with friends. When the mood is right she plays really well with her brother, dressing him up as various powerful bad guys and involving him in amateur theatricals.
Christopher still inspires us all with his energy and forceful nature. Fortunately, at 4 ¾ years old, he has become a little more domesticated and is learning some skills for dealing with situations when life hasn’t given him exactly what he has in mind. He remains a good cuddler and a person who is likely to say (with a heartfelt sigh), “you’re so wonderful!” But he’s equally likely to say, “I don’t like you anymore and I’m going to hit you tomorrow.” Thanks, mostly to Richard’s perseverance, he’s learned how to swim (looks a little like a water bug) and to get around on skis as well. He loves computer games and has learned some unusual things from them, including the names of the all the States and where they’re located on a map. I try to encourage him to live in the “real world” as much as possible, and then he doesn’t want me to be his mommy anymore. He’s in school 3 mornings a week and loves his teachers and classmates. He’s also in love with Princess Fiona from the movie “Shrek.”
Richard says that he doesn’t want me to make this letter funny at his expense this year, so I’ll do my best. But before I respect his wishes too strictly, I need to share Richard’s new and deep insights into his true nature. He’s calling it “Pomeranian consciousness” referring to the small, fluffy, aggressive, anxious, yappy lap dogs of the same name. Whenever he starts to get inexplicably worried or annoyed we realize we’re just seeing another facet of the mysterious “way of the Pom.” But he’s probably one of the few Pomeranians who loves to ski and this year he’s been having a great time doing it. He had to go out and get downhill ski equipment but it seems to make skiing much easier on the knees. So now he has a season pass and he goes up whenever the snow is good and he’s not at work. When he is at work he is still department chief and continues to do it well without bringing the job home (much). He likes to empower others to solve their own problems. Over the last year or more, he and 3 of his partners have organized a 4 year, shared, quarterly sabbatical. It now looks like it might actually happen, with our first 3 months off coming next Jan-March (2003). At this point it looks like we’ll choose Italy, but we could use help in narrowing our target. We could also use help in babysitting two geriatric dogs for 3 months. Where is suspended animation when you need it?
The dogs… well they’re aging. Seems they would prefer indoor sanitation facilities, for instance. We’ve made a compromise by installing a doggy door. Our fingers are crossed that it will solve the problem.
Astro is actually very perky for her 12 years and makes a good jogging partner. She’s been getting more exercise and is thriving on it. As she ages she seems to have acquired more of a taste for being scritched and is not quite so obsessive about her ball.
Angie, at 11, seems to be getting old faster than Astro. Her all black nose now has a white spot on it and she has arthritis in her wrist. She doesn’t bark at imaginary bad guys as much either and she seems to lose track of where I am when she’s off her leash on her walk. But she continues to do her funny, cute, strange playing behavior (“rompy chow”) and is the nicest, softest pillow in the house. She shows her creative side in finding truly unusual things to roll in.
And me, Rachel. Its been an eventful year for me, although most of the events seem to have been internal. I’ve continued the Zen meditation and started turning my attention to the traditional enigmatic little Zen stories called Koans (the sound of one hand clapping and the like). They seem to help open up those musty attic boxes of the mind and I fear I have become insufferably self-absorbed. The critics have published their reviews, though, and the response is so far mostly favorable: “less nervous”—Janice, Sun Times, “more relaxed”—Mac, Xenia Picayune, “slightly less grumpy”—Richard, Pomeranian Post. As a result I’ve started to write poetry that I can reread without wincing. I also eat less sugar and am a somewhat less aggressive driver. As for the more external stuff, I’ve grown my hair long and try to figure out how many braids I can put it in each morning. You can tell if it’s a bad day because then it’s a single pony tail. I’ve done some bronze sculpture this year, two large and one small. The most involved was a large hen which involved lots of research. I even became a chicken for a while. The children listened to me better when I said “buk,” but they eventually required “Mommy” to come back. Oh well.
As a family, we seem to have become more able and interested in traveling. The kids are more patient which makes all the difference. So we’ve been able to start to go places and see family and old friends. If you haven’t been visited yet, know that you’re on the list. Richard and I have been enjoying singing together and made our performing debut at the Unitarian Family Camp Talent Show last summer. We were great! Now Richard is transcribing sappy Everly Brothers love songs while I’m trying to hold out for really morbid old time gospel songs. We’ll see who wins…