Whew! Pardon us while we rest a minute before telling you about this year. When we left off, Christopher's broken leg was still in a cast and we were looking forward (sort of) to a Christmas-day flight to Tucson to visit Grandma Carol. We made it, an interesting trip between getting Christopher around and assorted stomach bugs. A good time as had in Tucson by all (Bill even got some data at Kitt Peak, so the official part of the trip panned out too). The cast came off just in time for his sixth birthday party - though we did have to delay one present. Instead of a real bicycle, he got the virtual kind, a card with its picture saying that the real thing would come when his leg muscles were back up to it.
School marched on, through several bouts of head lice in Christopher's class. He found one and looked at it under his Christmas microscope. Yes, indeed, eight legs, jointed body, all creatures have their dignity but this is one ugly species.
In March, eight weeks to the day after getting his cast off, Christopher broke his arm at a friend's birthday party (something about climbing on the monkey bars). By now we thought the Child Welfare Agency was going to lock us up for abuse. It would have been better if the orthopedist had managed to look a little more surprised to see us again.
Terri took a week in May for the high school graduation in Seligman, Arizona. These were the kids she had in her kindergarten during her first year teaching. They all look much bigger now. Meanwhile Bill was Mr. Mom (that's "associate professor mom" to you). It all went swimmingly (except, of course, for that little incident while Bill was saying something at a software meeting and Nathan brought him a diaper, announced that he had to be changed, and lay down in the floor). After a visit to the zoo (that time-honored way for solo dads to amuse the kids), Nathan said he liked the baby dinosaurs. Finally figured out after a game of 20 questions that they were the alligators just moved to a new moat (actually paid for by the local Florida alumni club - Gators...). Never saw a group of people so happy to greet Mom at the airport coming home.
Bill had to be at Kitt Peak for the by-now traditional June observing run, so we all flew out and drove a rental car to California for that legally-required American institution, the Disneyland vacation. Nathan had been talking for weeks about wanting to hug Mickey Mouse, and we were so happy for him that we could have cried when he did in fact meet the Big Cheese himself and gave him a flying tackle. Actually, he wouldn't let go, so there are some hundreds of families who looked at their vacation photos of the kids with Mickey Mouse and asked, ``Who's that kid with the blond curly hair?". We did Pirates of the Caribbean about three times, and It's a Small World - well, let's not go into it, but we do have the whole thing on tape if you're interested. Terri decided that the Rocket Jets are too dangerous with a two-year-old at the height controls. Christopher thinks he might possibly like to do all this again. He got a surprise visit to the La Brea Tar Pits museum, having almost worn out his video tape of a show about the place. We may have seriously distorted Nathan's view of reality this trip, what with Disneyland followed by the San Diego Wild Animal Park - which had a hillside covered with robot dinosaurs.
When we got to Tucson, Christopher was getting all worked up over his upcoming swimming lessons - so much that he taught himself to swim in the pool in Tucson. We were at the pool one evening when Grandma yelled ``Look what he's doing!" - ``what" being swimming the length of the pool, never before having gotten beyond the wading area without flotation aids (or seat cushions, or whatever).
Bill was off to Chile in July for observing at Cerro Tololo, which was very successful, but marked mainly by his camera jamming just during the closeup of an Andean condor - the aftermath of an unfortunate incident at the Wildlife Park involving Christopher, Nathan, the lorikeet cage, and a glass of Pepsi. Too traumatic to talk about. While he was away, a Space Telescope press release mentioned his name, as affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. News to us. Both kids did swim lessons, though the parks office seemed more than a little confused about whether they were really offering toddler's lessons. Christopher tried a couple of weeks of day camp run by the YMCA, which was OK but not as neat as the one in the Berenstain Bears book. Bill tried his hand at outdoor work by putting rails and a slide on the backyard treehouse, marked mainly by his managing to drop a nut, bend over, and end up eight feet away, face down in the dirt, with the slide on top of him. Nathan still talks about it, though "Swamp Thing" isn't quite in his vocabulary.
At the end of the summer we finally resumed our status as a bivehicular family, what with Stuart Ryder moving back to Australia and needing to sell in a hurry. Terri feels very sporty in the almost-new (well, newish) Mitsubishi Mirage. Bill gets to drive it most Saturdays. Just in time to save us from playing car tag when Christopher started first grade. He also started with the junior branch of Cub Scouts, the Tiger Cubs. As a result of showing up for the first meeting, Terri is the den coordinator. They've done a lot of interesting things, right up to visiting patients at the local VA hospital. Christopher is reading very well, including all those road signs and price tags that we'd just as soon he not notice. Last time he mentioned one, his favorite book was ``Mr. Jeremy Fisher" by Beatrice Potter (though he seems to take an awful lot of nature books out of the school library).
Nathan enjoyed a day trip to see an air show across the state in September, just before Bill went to talk at a meeting in Italy. Sounded kind of suspicious, hilltop resort near Sorrento within sight of the isle of Capri - no, no, there was serious scientific discussion and exchange of data. Really. Just drop us a line to see the pictures of Pompeii. September did seem like a blur, with proposals for Space Telescope and ground-based observing time, the meeting, and his promotion application all falling due. So far, none of the committees looking at the application seems to mind that he did things like sing Monty Python's "Galaxy Song" in class.
We're almost past the leaf-shovelling season around here. Christopher and Nathan helped redistribute them, Nathan sometimes up to his eyebrows. He's learning the cutest phrases, such as "You're boring me" and "No way". He turns three next week, and we're expecting Oma Keel down for the occasion. We're still doing the conceptual design for the airplane cake he wants.
Christmas decorating has generated a lot of excitement. Nathan tried to drag our old boxed tree up from downstairs all by himself when the pace was too slow for him, but we ended up replacing the venerable 1988 tree with a brand-new Wal-Mart model. New lights, too, the ones that you can set for all sorts of blinking and chasing patterns. If anybody sees them doing that, they will probably want to see our collection of artwork on black velvet, Crimson Tide Coke cans, and the wheels under our house...
Bill has gotten back to regular trombone playing with the formation of a small orchestra at church. He had really missed the round of Christmas music from the player's side. Should have seen the practice when Nathan went along and insisted on sitting on Bill's lap while they were playing. Internet victim that he is, he points out that he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , and Terri sometimes checks account tmk on the same computer. And if you're really with it, you can see what he's up to by pointing your friendly WWW browser to http://www.astr.ua.edu/keel/billkeel.html .
So far, everybody is staying healthier this year, and we wish the same for all of you. Best wishes for a happy and blessed holiday season, and another year not quite so eventful as this has been for us,
Terri, Bill, Christopher, and Nathan