Dear Friends, Family and Randomly-Selected Recipients (aka the Control Group),
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Paley family!
It’s incredible, but another year has come to an end and it is time for our annual recap of the trials and tribulations (metaphorically speaking, of course) of the year that was 2016. We hope this letter finds you in good health and that you are surrounded (in a non-aggressive way of course) by loved ones during this festive time of year. We sincerely hope that you’ve had an amazing year full of joy, satisfaction and clear complexions.
Over at Chez Paley, as our days turned into nights and back to days again only to once more incredibly turn to nights, life has been as busy as always what with the whole family running around like chickens with their heads cut off day in and day out. After some time, we came to an agreement that we would continue to run around, just in a slightly more controlled manner what with all the panting and the collisions and the grotesque analogies involving flightless farm animals that may or may not be considered food.
But where has the year gone? Based on how mean-spirited you are, that question is rhetorical, though we do really want to know. Our older daughter exasperatedly complained that time has just gone so quickly and no matter of explaining that time doesn’t speed up or slow down per her father’s layperson understanding of quantum physics, helped her relax. What does help her relax is horse tranquilizer, but that’s a topic for a very different kind of letter, not one of celebration or at least a very different kind of celebration.
Let me tell you, these kids of ours constantly keep us on our toes, which, while exhausting, has strengthened our toes. Our free time (cue the recording “what free time?” and “nice try funny guy” and “hey, wait, are you recording me?”) was spent shuttling the kids from sports to lessons to activities and once, by accident, to the local Recycling Depot where dad tried to make it look like a planned and much-anticipated educational field trip. The weekly schedule was so regimented that one tired parent exclaimed that it was like we were in prison, and we laughed and laughed and laughed before slowly stopping and then just sitting, staring at the wall lost in our thoughts.
It feels like ages since we’ve seen any of our friends. In some sense, our only contact has been through social media, which paints an incomplete, yet highly humorous and potentially strange, picture of how we are doing. So, we thought we’d break down this wall, and if things go well, to continue breaking down walls (an excuse to buy a new sledgehammer!) and write you all this letter.
Now we could have written a very boring, predictable, generic and seen-many-times-before recap. You all know the type — full of cute anecdotes involving our children; littered with the “hey, check out how funny and cool and high-functioning our family is” photos; a few detailed and gripping real challenges we faced, overcame and grew from and then finishing with a sappy and clichéd inspirational conclusion.
Sorry, we are not that family. “Just what kind of family are you?” is a great question, which we’ve decided not to answer on advice of our legal team. “Just what kind of legal team are you?” is also a great question as our legal advisor confusingly keeps telling me he is just the checkout person at the local grocery store and that he will call security if I don’t leave him alone.
So yes, we’ve decided to pull the plug (try taking a bath now, Grace!), open the curtains (take that, vampire!) and bake some cookies (take that….ummm…people who hate cookies?) and give you a rundown of all that was unique and odd and wonderful in our year. I have taken creative license to “spice things up” as well as being quite liberal with my spices while cooking. Without further ado, here was our year.
As we said goodbye to 2015, the new year started with a bang as the kids enjoyed staying up till 1am at their aunt’s party. “We want to stay up till 1am all the time!” they said quite ominously as we got into the car to drive home, before falling asleep instantly and having to be carried into the house rolled up in a rug Mafia-style. The beginning of 2016 saw the four of us huddling for warmth as we spent our free time playing hours of board and card games while enjoying the luxuries of central heating and warm woolen sweaters. As we played hundreds of hours of games, the concepts of a humble winner and a gracious loser were works in progress and more abstract constructs than reality.
February brought day after day of rain where both the winter holiday and spring break seem equally far away. To liven things up, Grace dabbled in lovingly mentally torturing her older sister as part of an ongoing experiment that the local university psychology department showed great interest in. Charlotte passed the time playing the same song on the piano again and again and again all weekend long as her own version of melodious torture to be enjoyed by for all. Valentine’s Day where dad “surprises” the females of the family with chocolates arrived once more. Just once dad wants to truly surprise the girls with actual cow’s hearts rather than the chocolate variety just to hear their sweet childlike screams more often.
Spring break provided a welcome chance for the family to catch up on sleep, while Charlotte also began cooking her own breakfasts, braiding her own hair and diagramming detailed gerbil habitats often killing two birds with one stone, figuratively. March was also birthday month for mom and dad. Dad and the kids planned an elaborate birthday for mom that included a special breakfast and an amazing dinner as well as a huge, ear-splitting and poorly thought out “SURPRISE!” while mom was peacefully enjoying her morning shower. Grace told dad not to worry as 45 wasn’t old yet, but that 50, which was old, was only five years away before she walked off saying “tick tock, tick tock” in as endearing a way as one could for a seven-year-old.
Spring was in the air as April announced its arrival. As the days got slightly warmer and longer, every extra minute was needed to fit in all of the ultimate games and yoga classes and piano lessons and dance classes and family air band rehearsals. We were like “ships passing in the night” as mom insisted on reminding us all on a weekly basis; even going as far as making impressively realistic and joyful “tooting” sounds and far less pleasant, yet still realistic, boat horn sounds while walking around the house. Charlotte’s birthday came and she turned 10 which, as she reminded us, meant that she was almost a teenager which we couldn’t decide was more of a threat or a promise.
In May, the girls were in their first piano recital. After hours and hours of practicing their festival songs, the girls went to perform. Not that their dad is biased or anything, but they clearly turned in two of the single best piano performances in the history of humankind which all future performances will unfortunately be negatively compared to, thus reducing their father to a puddle of tears which they confusingly splashed in afterwards. Grace enjoyed her 8th birthday at a local gymnastics facility where she literally bounced non-stop for two hours and that was before she consumed near lethal amounts of sugar.
The end of the school year approached and that meant two things, a much-needed return to sanity and year-end dance shows! As dad had more flexibility in his work schedule than mom, he took on the dance show rehearsals which involved managing complex hairdos and navigating complicated makeup directions. Where some men, when confronted with these challenges, would run away screaming or huddle in a fetal position whimpering like a baby, dad decided to confront his fears head on which meant begging and pleading for some of the infinitely more skilled mothers at the rehearsals to “help a brother out” which led to some beautifully made-up girls and $2.35 in loose change. The kids were wonderful in their time on stage, both absolutely loving the chance to perform in front of an audience that was more significantly more appreciative than a couch full of stuffed animals who are super tough to please.
Summer was here and mom went off to teach summer school to earn money so the family could keep using electricity as well as putting food on the table and then, after a short period of time, eating said food. Dad and the girls hit the beach; literally. Summers have become a never-ending cycle of swimming, drying off and repeating. Dad has also passed down the age-old family traditions of healthy eating as well as living in constant fear of sunburns, thus making summers feel like one long application of sunscreen. The best moment of the summer is when mom would join the family for an evening BBQ and we’d sit there enjoying our meal in the waning sun all the while shooing away seagulls and wasps.
Every few days, the Paleys would pick up the tennis racquets and head to the local courts. These highly enjoyable hits followed a very predictable arc for the kids — (1) complaining about everything conceivable and being lazy, (2) blaming dad for everything and arguing and fighting with each other, (3) digging in and adopting a positive attitude, (4) playing great tennis and promising next time would be different, which it never was. When not at the beach or on the court, the family spent time throwing Frisbees at or to each other, riding bikes with or away from each other, and watching movies.
Each year, September is like a smack in the face, although an actual smack in the face is infinitely more like one (thank you mom, for the help with the comparison). The change from sleeping in to alarms at 6:30 were a challenge. The change from leisurely mornings to the frantic, heart-racing panic of a school day was drastic. The change from a summer of lounging in pajamas or beachwear to actually having to look presentable was really hard. And although we all greatly missed the freedom and warmth of the summer, thankfully the kids love school and were excited to see their friends and teachers and underappreciated school custodians once more.
As the Paleys switched racquets from tennis to squash as well as roasting squash and red peppers deliciously topped with goat cheese, the cool days of October let us know that summer was long over. Both girls ran cross-country this year, though that statement is vastly misleading as far as the actual distance covered. Big strides, alternating with several small ones, were made and each kid showed huge improvements throughout the season. As for many, October is all about Halloween. This year, the girls collected a disgusting diabetes-inducing amount of candy which dad joked about unwrapping, melting and then bathing in, to absolutely zero laughter aside from his own.
In November, the girls enjoyed multiple trips to local swimming pools and skating rinks, as well as getting ready for their acrobatic Christmas dance routines as evidently nothing says Christmas more than backbends and cartwheels. Afterschools were reserved for homework and piano practice and each kid worked really hard as report card time neared. Thankfully, the parents had to spend minimal time cajoling and/or barking and/or threatening to hide the remote for work to be done, as each girl cares about doing well as well as having access to the remote on a regular basis. Evenings were never complete without a painfully slow, drawn-out bathing and brushing teeth routine followed by the howling wails to “please read another chapter if you love me”. Ah, the things the parents will miss when they are 90.
And here we are at the end of yet another year in December. Time really has passed so quickly and it’s amazing that it is almost 2017. Holiday time is always a chance to take a deep breath, or multiple deep breaths depending on your level of stress, and reflect. We personally try to schedule reflecting time in front of a mirror so we don’t have to lug around our heavy portable one.
Life has been good for the Paleys this year — happy, healthy, hungry and…and…just a second while I quickly search for a fourth applicable H word…hesitant (nope), humiliated (not since dad stopped making recordings of his singing for internet distribution), hopeless (not yet), hysterical (sure, why not).
At this most merry time of year we are wish all of our friends and family the very best for 2017. We just can’t wait for the adventures that lay ahead!
Happy Holidays from the Paleys