Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Letter 2016

Dear Loved Ones,

Merry Christmas, friends! It’s taken me 5 days to write this annual letter, and I’ve hidden clues throughout as to why. [You’ll figure it out.]

I was trying to come up with a unifying theme for 2016 and “pestilence” is the only thing that came to mind. Sure, we had lice, flea, and pantry moth infestations this year—and I’ll take lice any day over the other two—but it seemed an unkind implication of my youngers.

Kyla finished 3rd grade as a homeschooler and returned to 4th grade at the local school, reading at grade level! That kid is willing to work hard. All the kids did a rock climbing camp during the summer, and Kyla turned that into weekly lessons [Mama, um, Mama] until it became too much to get her homework done and go to climbing--seriously, she’s ridiculously responsible. Kyla spent hours building and playing at the stream at the bottom of our ravine, and even without being familiar with Thoreau, longs to go “to the woods because I wish to live deliberately.” However, she can’t go too long without her audiobooks, so I’m always sure she’ll be back by bedtime. Next year [Mama!], she hopes to receive her acceptance letter to Hogwarts when she turns eleven. I could make an argument for her to be sorted into any of the houses, but I probably won’t send her to boarding school, for Wesley would be heartsick (and have to sleep by himself).

Wesley, aka “I’m why we can’t have nice things”, spent 2016 honing his ability to destroy, usually beginning with my sanity and then quickly moving to furniture, though this year he advanced to larger structures when he used scissors to tunnel a way to Kyla’s room. He has lots of curiosity and no concept of consequences, and has actively ruined the kitchen table 3 different times and my wall repairs a handful of times. I have gotten to the point of sending him to Dwayne after an “incident”, as after almost 7 years of this, I am the parent [Mama, Mama, Mama] more likely to wring his neck. Earlier today, we had a conversation that engraving “I love you” on the furniture conversely relays the opposite message. Wesley does have other talents beside destruction. He can get from one level of our split story home to another without using any stairs. In related news, he’s now in weekly parkour class and he likes to play baby dragons at recess.

Some people want gender reassignment, but I think we can safely start saving for Piper’s species reassignment surgery. In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, every human has an animal daemon, and children’s daemons pop and transform into many different animals until maturity [Mama, um, Mama?], when they settle into one. Likewise, Piper is still continually transfiguring between species, though dragons, dogs, cats, and chinchillas are the most common. However, instead of a separate entity, she is her own daemon…and you can take that anyway you like. This year, Piper turned down all sports opportunities to take more art classes, and Cartooniversity struck a sweet chord for her. All of us WA Needs are unrepentant snugglers, but Piper is the only one who rejects humans, finds a cat, hugs it under her chin, and buries them both in blankets for the night. This year, Piper also became Grandpa’s Chief Assistant. My dad has made wine and beer for decades now, and he has finally found an 8-year old who shares his interest. He and Piper have Saturday bottling dates—she gets to truly be useful, and, temporarily, be an only child. Her true obsession is Hamilton, and the lyrics have expanded her vocabulary; not only “revelation” and “intransigent” but several 4-letter words as well. I’m oddly pleased that she learned them at home.

Dwayne won husband of the year award this year again when he surprised me with tickets to Hamilton for our 14th anniversary. We left the kids with my parents, and madly sauntered around Manhattan for a week. Hamilton was the trip’s highlight, but we loved the museums and parks almost as much. I don’t think a year goes by without him [Mama?] impressing me with some new structure. This year, it was his remodel of the cabin bathroom and a new trellis in the front yard, eventually to be the home of the best grapes grown on our street. Currently, no one else is growing grapes, so I’m entering the contest quite confidently. In January, Dwayne will celebrate twenty years at Microsoft. That is, he would be, but last year, Microsoft did away with 20 year bashes. Stock is doing well, so I’m sure we’ll get over it.

Last year, I wrote “[If all goes] well, I can finally have my well-deserved year of reading banned books, eating bonbons, and finding new places to hide dust bunnies in between spa treatments. I have a few more schemes up my sleeve, none of which involve housework.” 41-year-old Denise is kind of an idiot [Mama!], though she was certainly right about the housework. Generally, my life is interesting only to me; honestly, I’m pretty excited when the hamburger buns I have out for dinner aren’t moldy. I sub a few days a week, rule a few kingdoms nobody else wants, and, uncharacteristically, do something I’m lousy at. Dwayne and I are now business partners, after creating Heartsease Properties, LLC, which is just a fancy way of saying we started renting our cabin on Airbnb and put it into an LLC. My job is to dot every legal “I” and cross every “t”, which must stand for “taxes”. If it wasn’t for the lawyer and accounting fees this year, the cabin may have paid for its operating costs. Anyway, owning a small business [um, Mama?] pretty much exploits my every weakness. I’ve also turned down some amazing (to me) opportunities this year, simply because I have genuinely accepted that I cannot do it all…and for free, as Dwayne points out. Personal growth, indeed!

The sad news in our family this year is that my Aunt Janet, Mom’s twin, had a stroke in September. Her recovery has been excruciatingly slow, especially for Janet herself, but there is hope for recovery next year. It has put a bit of a pall over the holidays, though the anticipation of Advent is hard to ignore and my children’s excitement is more contagious than their colds.

May your traditions, family, and friends bring you both joy and peace this season!

With love,

Denise [Mama!], for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, & Wesley, 2 cats, fish, and (-2) hamsters

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