Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Family Letter 2011

It was a hectic year for the Owl family. As it is every year for families with children of a certain age (where they cannot creditably threaten you with retirement homes). It ended on a very bad note, however, so let's start there.

In November, Mrs. Owl's dad passed away from a heart attack. It was sudden and hit the family  hard. Mrs. Owl and her sister rushed to their mother's side, in the Phillippines, where Mrs. Owl's mom and dad spend a good part of the year.

He was a well loved man , always with a song or a game for the kids. The songs were either  Tagalog or old songs that had the faint air of the Roaring Thirties and Spain. The games invariably involved the kids riding on his back.

His enormous, ready smile was big enough to include everyone, just like his post dinner impromptu programme in which anyone with even the slightest talent was called upon to perform.

He will be missed.

Mrs. Owl had a trying time in the Philippines, and I’m glad she had her mother and sister for support. Fortunately the most trying aspect, the Filipino wake, turned out to be a great help. Although when she heard about the days long period of staying with the body, even overnight, she had to contend with culture shock on top of grief. Luckily she found it cathartic, helpful, and not utterly terrifying like another, lesser person, like me, would have.

Dad is buried in the Philipines, in the backyard of the home he and Mom have there.

Mrs. Owl was gone for 17 days, so I had the, the, uh, the privilege of working full time and taking care of the kids. We got by on the mantra ‘She’ll be back in 10 days’ (miraculously this quelled questions about Mrs. Owl’s return for seven full days), the kids unwavering good cheer, and my mom and neighbours helping out tirelessly to look after the kids and get them to their various activities. Besides the endless frenetic pace, the bulwark of my sanity wavering every evening, and the terror of having my wife in a country where traffic laws are, at best, casually suggested, it was a snap.

All single parents should have an automatic sainthood.

And now on to the minutiae of our lives that I’m sure you’re all reading breathlessly on for.

In the summer we went down the Oregon Coast, for the first time since Owl Jr. was born. The trip down involved the various ways that the phrase “Are we there yet” can break down two adults’ previously healthy psyche.

The actual beach at Seaside was lovely. It was somewhere between pleasant and chilly, which, as this temperature mirrors a basement office with nothing but computers to keep one warm, suited me fine. The kids were enamoured with the waves. Owl Jr., on seeing the vast expanse of beach, tried many times to escape and perhaps set himself up as some kind of beach comber. Owlet had fun making and destroying small sand cities. God help us if either of them develop any sort of super powers.

There was also great fun with bumper cars, bike cars, and miniature trains. There was no tourist trap unsprung by the time we left Seaside.

Speaking of touristy things to do, Mrs. Owl and I went on a luxurious, very high class three day cruise from Vancouver, to Seattle, to Victoria, and back to Vancouver. We must have crossed at least, 10, 20 nautical miles.  Our fellow cruisers were older folks who I suspect make it a lifestyle, somewhat wild middle-aged women, and not a few people who mistook it for a ferry. It was just our pace, however. Nice dinners, quiet lounges to read or listen to a jazz ensemble, and those cruise shows to which most Theatre majors are bound.

Owlet is in kindergarten. Full time school, which is absurd, as she only just learned to walk last month. Or so it seems. She’s started that great journey where complete strangers and their children will have greater and greater influence on her.

She’s in a pilot program where she’s learning Mandarin. This seems to be the hip and progressive thing to do but I can’t help but think she’ll spend quite a lot of time doing inflections properly so that she somewhat misunderstand the Cantonese when we go to dim sum. 

The last big event that I can remember at her school was a dinosaur program where she sang a fugue-like song about a Stegosaurus. After the program they went to show us the dinosaurs they crafted out of cereal boxes, glue, construction paper, paint, and what we’ve been told is close adult supervision. It was, I can tell you as an objective parent, very much like stepping into Jurassic Park.

Owlet is also taking jazz dance and gymnastics this year. Both involve large groups of children following, in a very liberal interpretation of that word, what the teacher is saying. The only difference I can discern between the classes is one has falling mats.  Owlet, as in all things she does, enjoys it enormously, with lots of screaming and laughing and a natural clumsiness which I’m certain is one of my many unfortunate legacies to her.

Owl Jr. has come out of his very sad and sombre cocoon . It appears he was quiet all those months building up reserves of energy, mainly to resist all requests to : eat food that isn’t 1) hot dogs 2) a fruit of some sort; do his business on the potty. Fortunately you can look to the Owls to be that salve against your other family friends (you know the ones), whose children are reading by the age of two and doing UN recognized charity work by four. We have every expectation that we will be giving Owl Jr.’s prom date instruction on changing his diaper.

Oh, he’s generally a gentle, thoughtful little boy, but the things he  thinks about are his opinions on things, which cannot be moved (with regard to potties and Other Food). But his defiance is a bastion which will, for no reason at all, collapse under repeated requests. ‘Do you want to eat this rice?’ “NO!” “Do you want some rice?” “NONONO” “Do you want rice?” “Ok.”. It makes meal times baffling and randomly rewarding.

The other thing he thinks quiet, deep thoughts about are trains. Thomas the Tank Engine, mainly but anything on rails will do. We pooled money with the parents to get him a large train table with double level tracks and  a crane and a road system. When asked “What do you think of it Owl Jr.!?”, he paused his play with the crane to say, “Yes.”.

Mrs. Owl is stil part-time at a long term care facility assiduously watching what the old folks eat, possibly ‘tsking’ and making adjustments and the like. Her contract is up in March, so she might be looking for another place to watch over the eating habits of the elderly, I’m not sure.

I am still at UBC, programming. Interesting life I lead.

May this notoriously late holiday letter find you all well & happy, and our best wishes to you and yours for the new year.

Owl Family
2011



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