We're sure you're breathlessly awaiting the latest from the Keels, so you can feel so much more normal. Here goes...
Nathan has just turned 5, and is starting to read letters on signs. He spelled his first word this summer - we might need to be concerned that it was T-I-T-A-N-I-C. Christopher will be 9 next month, and has been riding his bike without training wheels. Just about to outgrow it, too. He'll be getting orthodontics next year, and we plan to ask the dentist whether we can get a ride in our new car as soon as he buys it.
Terri has been promoted to packmaster for the Cub Scouts, which means that she actually gets to recruit people to help with the work. The big fall activity seems to have been selling popcorn to raise funds, which we have only now rid our den of. Feel free to get in touch next fall if microwave, low-fat, caramel, or chocolate popcorn tickles your fancy.
When we left off last year, Bill was ready to be part of the orchestra for the church's Christmas production. Four of these in three days was a little more than his endurance was really up to at the time, and he kept spraying his lips with ice water during rests. He's sure things will go better this year, if for no other reason than the music director has been bold enough to have the group play weekly during services so they can't get too rusty.
The year started off in a busy way, when a tornado wiped out a couple of stores two blocks from our house. Terri and the kids report that a tornado does indeed sound like a freight train. We made it with nothing worse than flying lawn chairs, but the stores have been rebuilt. One friend heard a report on CNN and called from Arizona to ask whether that had hit anywhere near us. Bill looked out the kitchen window at the lights of the police cars and said yes. One of Christopher's best friends suddenly acquired a tree in the living room that night; his class took up a collection to at least replant some trees for them.
Bill has sat on enough committees to have wangled a pass to view the launch of the second shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope (that's STS-82, fellow nerds) from the "VIP-with-kids" area. So we stuffed everybody in Terri's car, the van no longer being suitable for such extended trips, and trundled off to the Cape. Bill's wanted to be able to say "No, can't make it that day, I'll be at the Cape" for years. The predawn launch was spectacular, beyond the ability of videotape to capture. But feel free to admire our pictures ... Christopher admitted that the launch was cool, but the dead stingrays washed up near the hotel were really interesting. We only let him bring home dead horseshoe crabs, though.
Terri's mom made it to Tuscaloosa for her birthday (Terri's, not Carol's). We always get spoiled when she visits, and not just the kids. She likes to paint rooms, rake leaves, clear fallen branches... Terri has threatened legal action if there's another bright comet next spring, especially one that gets people out of bed repeatedly before dawn.
The summer saw us wandering around even more than usual. Bill had two meetings in North Carolina, so we added a stop in Chattanooga (those 3D IMAX films are really convincing - the kids kept trying to grab the fish in front of them) and the Smokies. We're pretty sure that neither Carl Sagan nor Edwin Hubble ever stayed in a motel across the street from Dollywood. Amazing how we could pull to the side of the road for pictures in the mountains and Christopher was yelling the species of some caterpillars 20 feet away that the rest of us couldn't even see yet. We did get a chance to visit our former neighbors the Crofts while on the road.
For our traditional summer trek to Tucson, Bill finally had to make a fashion statement and adopt the hat look, muttering something about having less adequate cranial radiation protection than he was accustomed to. Coming out-of-pocket, we flew Southwest into Phoenix, and got a fine-looking set of wheels when Terri talked the car rental people into letting us have a Lincoln Towncar for $25 a week extra. Spent the first two hours figuring out all the buttons. It was great - the kids would ask "How far?", and we could punch a button and reply "38.7 miles".
|Hats||and bats||and desert||rats||and a coati.|
Just a couple of days after getting back home, we were off again, this time to Mississippi for a family reunion. We stayed for a day with B.C. and Clara Tadlock, and this time nobody broke anything. Christopher and Nathan really liked the backyard pond and paddleboats. We looked out the window at one point to see their boat escaped, floating loose in mid-pond. Christopher then got the rowboat, circled the pond a few time, roped the paddleboat it, picked up Nathan on the far side of the pond (who declared that he'd wait for Christopher to rescue him instead of a parent), and brought the whole parade back to dock. And did we have a video camera to document this? But noooooooo. Christopher then spent a few days with his grandmother (Oma) in Nashville, after we made the swap in Huntsville. On the hottest day of the year, so that the line for him to try out the weightlessness swing at the space center seemed looooong. He met the rest of us after his first solo flight the following week, in Memphis, where we went to the Titanic travelling exhibit (see Nathan's spelling feats above). We did bring back just a few souvenirs, including a bit of coal salvaged from the seafloor.
Terri's 20th high-school reunion was at summer's end in Tucson, so she packed off again for a few days to see what happened to whom. The kids were most impressed that she went to school with one of the originators of the Adventures in Odyssey radio and video series - not that she knew him at the time, you understand. Some folks changed, some look the same, some still single, others are grandparents - the whole reunion thing. Bill ran a tight ship at home. Well, except for coming out of church, stopping to talk to someone, and seeing Nathan sitting on the car roof playing Tarzan with the antenna. And the time when the car battery went out on the way to a talk he had to give at a meeting; when they finally got there, Nathan was so thoughtful, waiting until Dad finished his spiel before coming over to spit a handful of cake icing into his hand. Once again, a very happy crew to meet Mom when she got off the plane.
We made it to Nashville for a September weekend with something for everybody. Bill celebrated (sort of) an early birthday. Terri went to a major women's conference called "Renewing the Heart". And Christopher got to see the reopened Grassmere wildlife park. He was sitting at one of their Animal Encounters when the zookeeper produced a snake, saying "And this is..." Christopher said "A corn snake". "Sometimes people also call it a..." "Rat snake". He also got to touch the giant African cyanide-secreting millipede.
|Arthur...||is big.||and so...||are old...||favorites.|
Ah yes, the birthday. Bill decided to switch to Roman numerals and declare himself upgraded to the XL Model. Terri put together a surprise birthday party, highlighted by a mural featuring a selection of historical photos embellished by enlightening captions (provided by Missy Stephens). We have such thoughtful friends - he'd tell you about some of the cards, but somehow has a little trouble remembering them. He did at least remember that medical history suggests that going to Pasadena is an unhealthy idea (if not for him exactly), so he got a NASA committee to meet in Tuscaloosa instead. The things some people do.
We talked ourselves into a quick Thanksgiving trip to Houston, in which Terri took in a museum exhibit that was about to depart and the rest of us checked out the dinosaurs down the street. Needless to say, Christopher was right and Bill was wrong, that big skeleton was the Giganotosaurus and not an ordinary Allosaurus. We visited the space center, finishing our set of the Big 3 NASA sites in one year, blissfully unaware until our arrival that Disney had taken over the exhibits in both style and price. On top of that, we did some of our Christmas shopping at Neiman-Marcus, and certainly hope the boys appreciate it (and that they don't read this before Christmas, since we tried to do all the setup out of sight and Terri dragged the washing-machine-sized box downstairs when no one was looking). You didn't hear it here.
Once again, we'll point out Bill is also known to friends as 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 here .
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