December 6-8, 2015
I keep waiting for just the right moment—a quiet household, a burst of creativity, and flash of inspiration—to write our annual Christmas letter. And this is why I will never actually get around to writing anything publishable. But I should have thought of that before I decided to homeschool. Or have Wesley. Or get out of bed. However, I do have some ready material so let’s see what that and a glass of limoncello will do as a stand in for the muse.
It’s lucky I can write this at all. Last spring, the cats brought their first snake into the house. The fortunate part was that I ran to the neighbor who disposed of it for me instead of the neighbor (ahem, Kelsey), who would have advised me to burn down the house and start again. And I probably would have done it. So, thanks, Mark, you saved Christmas.
2015 was memorable, as we did one of our first family vacations together, which was not a disaster (at least, not after the first bit). We rented a motorhome and meandered around Oregon for two weeks. A few notes about RV rentals. Cons: the previous renters may be days late returning the vehicle, leading to a chaos and loss of beach reservations. Pros: the 16 things that stopped working on the RV while we had it are not our problem. But if motorhomes weren’t so expensive and inconvenient to store, I could totally go for a moving tent with indoor plumping, microwave and a lockable door between adults and children. We liked going down the road, reading books aloud and dumping out toys everywhere, just like at home.
Dwayne spent his first summer as a homeowner not building any stone walls. Instead, he managed to aggravate me much more efficiently than his usual brick building spree. We had some alders taken down at the cabin, and rather than pay $700 to grind down the stumps, Dwayne was determined to dig them out himself. After weekends that turned into months, and an amount of money > $700, those stumps found themselves at the dump. A pyrrhic victory, and lesson learned. He’s on year 18 at Microsoft, and has made me happy for about 13.1 years of our 13.4 years of marriage. Yep, should have ground down those stumps, Babe.
After spending the last few years trying to tutor Kyla after school, this year I decided to tutor Kyla instead of school. It’s working out much better than most of my schemes. We had a breakthrough a few weeks ago when Kyla asked to keep her light on so she could read more Harry Potter. (The chance I’d say no is similar to me refusing to buy overpriced kale at the farmer’s market when the kids beg for some.) At nine, she’s old enough to leave at home with some work while I volunteer in the other kids’ classrooms, and her worst crime is to play hooky and listen to another book. Well, her worst crime is more destructive than that. She’s probably not the sole responsible party for breaking furniture, ripping cushions, scratching floors, bending curtain rods, and hiding contraband where I’d like to store the dust bunnies, but she’s the first I ask. Kyla is the kid Dwayne and I will probably have fitted with a GPS microchip as our little explorer doesn’t even realize when she’s wandered a mile away from us at the beach, and loses track of the time when she’s playing out in the woods down by the stream—the same backyard where we have had our first bear and bobcat sightings this year. But she’s also the kid I can take to art lectures and science talks and she can wax pedantically all the way home…if she doesn’t get lost on the way back to the car.
Piper must be trying to impress Santa, because I’ve never witnessed her so cooperative, responsible, and helpful as these last few weeks. This last summer, I read aloud the nonfiction How to Scratch a Wombat. It became an instant guide to understanding Piper. If, instead of regarding her as human, you think of her as an Australian marsupial in mismatched children’s clothes, she’s much easier to figure out. She recently described to our babysitter that wombats are like angry tanks. In fact, when she’s rampaging we give out the Mad Wombat! alert, and it not only gives fair warning to innocent bystanders, it cheers her up considerably. Piper still loves Mama, animals, and art (not necessarily in that order) and she has begun the tradition of making me omelets on Saturday mornings. And they are good—with no amendment needed “for a seven-year old”. She’s also the one local Need who is a morning person, a concept Dwayne and I can recognize but not grasp. She uses this unusual power to cheerfully and quietly do her morning chores, so it’s possible early risers are not spawns of Satan.
I was never going to put Wesley in school full-day until 1st grade, just like his sisters. But you know by now what happens to the best laid plans of mice and moms. So this year, he’s in full-day kindergarten and is doing much better than I ever imagined. Statistically, he has even odds of being dyslexic, and it’s difficult to pull him away from playing Power Ranger-Robot-Castle-Storming-Lightsabor-Duelist-Puppy to figure out if he has all his pre-reading ducks in a row, but I think he’s going to be fine, and perhaps even a wonderfully average kid. He has lost two teeth from unnatural causes, refuses to sleep alone (which is why Kyla and Piper have an extra bed in their rooms), still sucks his fingers, and is my one child who loves to play board games with me. He also was the full instigator of the worst day our household had in the last 365 days, just before he turned 5, but I blogged that out of my system ages ago.
I hesitate to put it in writing, but if homeschooling continues to go well, Kyla will return to school for 4th grade, so I can finally have my well-deserved year of reading fantasy novels, eating bonbons, and finding new places to hide dust bunnies in between spa treatments. I have a few schemes up my sleeve, none of which involve housework. The overarching goal is to not let everything I've learned about literacy and struggling learners only be useful to Kyla. I'd like to start a charter school for dyslexic learners someday, but currently I'm struggling with the motivation to start dinner, so I’ll settle for helping other families navigate learning challenges.
Finally, for those who found the font on the photo card a bit small, I will do my first 2nd edition:
Pine needles scattered, presents all shred,
Feral children not nestled in bed.
All through the house, not one inch undamaged,
As we all sigh at last, “Mischief Managed!”
We wish you a very Happy Christmas and a tolerable election year.
Love, love, love,
Denise & Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, and Wesley
 This was edited for language in the final draft.