Tardar Sauce the Cat

There once was a cat named Tardar. He was a very grumpy cat. Unfortunately, I own it. Yeah, I don’t really know if Tardar’s a boy or girl. Oh, here he comes right know. Tardar wants to say something.

http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/4242032/Grumpy+Cat+Xmas/

Courtesy: FunnyJunk.com

Yeah, it’s Christmas and Tardar just gave you his happiest holiday greeting you’re gonna get. I don’t know why Tardar is so dhfdufehfrejwhfueyfs143. Sorry Tardar just walked across the keyboard. Whatever. See you next time.

I Loffed My Teef

It finally happened.  My front teeth fell out.  First, one and then the other.  Dad had to help (a little tug and POP!).  Nice, eh?  And the tooth fairy brought me some coin.  Cha-ching!

What’s New?

Well, one of the newest things that is going on is that we are hosting a Challenger or British soccer coach. His name is Joe Tenny. Another thing that I just did was buy a Nintendo DS, but I’m now bankrupted. Also, my team “Flames”. So far we haven’t lost a game. Our team’s lucky ball is a D.C. United one. Well, those are the exiting thing that have been happening.

Argentina

As you may know we had just got back from Argentina. And after a whole week of fun and one day in Washington D.C after our 2 hour flight delay and missing our flight going to Buenos Aires. We went to Argentina to visit friends. We went all over the B.A. For a tour we even went on a double-decker-bus. We saw lots of buildings,memorials,and even a cemetery. We also went to a place called the Estancia, witch is spanish for ranch.  You can go horse back riding,swimming,and tennis. They have fancy food and a lot of meat. When we were there we ordered hamburger and fries and literally they gave us a hamburger with no bun no nothing and fries. Another good thing we got was stretched out    ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. They were tall and good. Well those were some of my Argentina highlights. This is Grace sighning off.

Day 4: Una Idea Mal… Driving the BA CBD

Buquebus Ferry Terminal

Monday morning we woke up to blue skies and just a little humidity.  The first order of business was to figure out how to acquire our rental car.  Luckily, I had Mercedes to help.  She made a few calls and eventually found someone that knew what the heck was going on.  She gave me an address and called a remise from the same service that had picked us up at the airport.  I thought remise was a Spanish word, but later learned it was common in old English and means  “an expensive or high-class hackney”.  In other words, a private ride instead of a regular cab.

20 min and AR$100 later, we arrived at the Buquebus ferry terminal near downtown.  There are many more details on the agony of renting a car on this post over at OpenKimono, but I will say it’s a far cry from the processes in place in the US.  It’s almost as though the rental car companies don’t actually want to rent a car to you.  Very weird.

After finally securing the car, it was time to venture onto BA’s wide avenues and see the sites.  Before we departed from Colorado, Julie had done a bit of research and determined the best way to see the city’s sites in a rapid fashion was via the Buenos Aires Bus, a double deck tour bus that loops around the CBD and stops in various locations where you can hop off / hop on.  We decided to go find the spot where the tours began. I plugged the cross streets into TomTom and off we went into the utter chaos that is midday traffic in BA.  I’ve driven in Manhattan and San Francisco at rush hour and both are pretty much a joke compared to BA’s Central Business District (CBD).  The problem is that while lanes are marked, they are meaningless.  You don’t see many big cars there, so the typical vehicle is about 2/3 of the lane.  For Porteños, this means there’s room for 3 cars across 2 lanes.  Duh.  Why not?  Mix in the occasional full-size BMW or Mercedes-Benz, tack on some big old Scania semi-trucks, a swarm of scooters and a liberal application of bicyclists and you have what amounts to complete anarchy for your typical North American driver.  Luckily, I revel in driving challenges and it didn’t take long to learn both the written and unwritten rules of the road.  Doug Parker had also given me a few tips during our wanderings the day before.

E for Parking

E for Parking

What I didn’t expect was for TomTom to be nearly useless.  While he technically knew how to get someplace, he lacked a practical understanding of BA’s thoroughfares and side streets.  More than once he suggested a left turn at an intersection that was clogged with traffic and often took me down narrow, one way corridors with cars, motor bikes and trucks parked haphazardly along the side of the street.  BA drivers also use their horns liberally, so getting anywhere in the CBD quickly becomes a cacophony of horns, revved engines and yelling.  Relaxing, really.

We eventually found the kiosk for the tour bus, but it was evident parking would be a challenge.  The buildings were side by side with nary a parking lot in sight.  It seems all the parking is underground and you just need to know where look, which we didn’t as it wasn’t until later that we learned all the big “E” signs meant “Estacionamiento” and not “Emergencia”.  I guess I should have questioned how there could be emergency related something or other (doctor’s office, free phone, etc.) on every other block.  Amateur move on my part.

So, we decided to punt and told TomTom to take us back to San Isidro, saving the bus tour for the next day when we could plan a little better.  In a few minutes we were cruising northwest on Avenida del Libertador, viewing the parques and plazas that line either side of the road for several kilometers running north out of the CBD.  We eventually found ourselves back in the small San Isidro town center, which was very quiet in the middle of the day.  We ventured into a little restaurant called Ummus and were able to navigate the menu to order some pizzas for the girls, pasta for Julie and a sandwich for me.  Lunch for four ran about AR$115  plus a 10% tip in cash (tipping on credit cards is not favored).  Plus another AR$1 for the dude watching all the cars parked on the streets near the shops.  Tipping of informal security guards is something I found to be common in South Africa and Argentina is no different.  Just a little cash back into the underground economy.

Much like New York, there was a wave of Italian immigration to BA in the early 20th century and their cultural sway has lasted up to the present with an influence on both language and food.  Linguistically, the local Spanish dialect is called Rioplatense and it possesses a prosody that language experts say is similar to Neapolitan.  In other words, spoken Spanish here sounds a lot like Italian.  And there are Italian cafés, gelato joints and pizzerias all over the place.  Like New York, BA is also known for its pizza.  Before our trip, we tried BA-style pizza at a Denver restaurant aptly named Buenos Aires Pizzeria and we determined the real deal in BA is very similar.  The crust is a thick, soft, a bit doughy and oven baked.  I’m a pizza aficionado and while I prefer thinner crust, wood fired type pizza (Col’Cacchio Pizzeria in Fairlands, Jo’Burg, RSA is a favorite), the BA-style is certainly edible and the kids loved the over abundance of cheese.

After lunch, we headed back to hacienda Parker to check in and figure out our next steps.  Before long, we found ourselves back in the car heading off with Kelly to Unicenter, the local shopping mall.  Unicenter is a 3 story mall like that you see in any major American city with a few sit-down restaurants, clothing stores and a multi-screen cinema.  It’s anchored at one end by a Falabella department store and a Jumbo hipermercado at the other end.  And it has a Starbucks.  I don’t recall seeing another one anywhere else in the city, but there’s one at the Unicenter.

The View from the Terraces

View from the Terraces

We cruised the mall for a while, then headed back out to pick up the Parker girls at their school, Asociación Escuelas Lincoln.  Lincoln is one of the international schools and most classes are taught in English (strangely, Spanish class is taught in Spanish :-P).  Most of the students are the children of ex-pats or wealthy local families.  Getting on the school grounds wouldn’t have been possible if Kelly wasn’t with us as there’s a fair amount of security around the school including a tall fence and a number of guards at the gate.  We toured the school, then wandered to the east side of the building where we found ourselves on a concrete terrace overlooking several acres of soccer pitches laid out between the school and the edge of the grounds on the banks of the River Plate.  A very nice view and pretty impressive.  Below us, we watched Lauryn practice.  There looked to be 4 girls and about 20 boys.  Apparently, girls in Argentina play field hockey, not futbol.  Lauryn’s coach only spoke Spanish and I was amazed she was picking up anything having only been in Argentina for about 8 wks to that point.

After practice, we piled again into the car and headed for home via Juan Diaz de Solis, a street that parallels the River Plate for several kilometers.  Along the river side of the street we noticed a scattering of grassy fields next to bars and restaurants like you’d see in a California beach town.  Apparently, these places are pretty lively on the weekends with city folks looking for a river breeze, a bit of green and a cerveza.  When we arrived home, I found there was still time for a run before dinner, so off I went on the sidewalks and paved trails that parallel the tracks of the Tren de la Costa (more on this train later).  ~3 miles and 25 min 30 sec later I decided that despite the low elevation, I was still slow.  Much more sweaty than usual, but slow.  Returning from my run, I found Doug had arrived home after dropping off his car for a pair of new tires.  He explained simple things are often hard and slow in Argentina.  How long will it take for the new tires?  2 days.

We enjoyed another great meal at home, this time prepared by Margarita, an Argentine woman the Parkers hired to help with some domestic tasks.  Having help is also pretty common in Buenos Aires as, despite a relatively high cost of living, labor is relatively inexpensive.  While domestic help is pretty easy to come by, just like in America, good help is hard to find and the Parkers did well with Margarita as she’s not only a very nice woman, she’s a great cook.  After getting the kids off to bed, Julie and I enjoyed a bottle of wine with Doug and Kelly (¡Malbec! ¡Malbec!) while we schemed up plans for the next day.

Day 3: The Fullers Arrive and Take BA in a Storm

After a few hours of sleep, we woke up about an hour from landing.  Erin and I peered out the window to overcast skies above a lush green countryside.  We landed, deplaned and headed to Immigration.  The US has a really nice thing going with a few countries where we charge their citizens a fee to enter the US.  In return, those countries do the same thing to Americans.  Argentina is one of those places.  We had to pay $131 per person to enter the country and, in exchange, we each got a nice sticker in our passports which permits us to re-enter the country for the next 10yrs without paying the “reciprocal entry fee” again.  Such a deal.  $524 lighter, we checked through immigration… learning both the Spanish word for cricket (“grillo”) and that, in the opinion of the immigration agent, Julie looks like she could be an Argentine… and claimed our bags.  Proceeding through customs we entered the hysteria of an international airport’s main terminal.  After looking around for a few minutes, we found the driver from the car service that our friends and hosts, the Parkers, had arranged for us.

We loaded up and headed into the city.  As we drove, the skies became steadily darker.  After about a 45min ride, we arrived at the Parker home in San Isidro.  Finally!  We were extremely relieved to be there.  Grace and Erin immediately scampered off with the Parker kids, 3rd grader Lauryn (a one-time soccer teammate of Grace’s) and 6th grader Lyndsey, to explore the house.  Meanwhile, Julie and I had a cup of the local coffee and chatted with Doug who gave us a quick tour of the house (we found the girls hanging out in the attic playing games), helped us lug our bags to our rooms and informed us we were having a BBQ that day with some folks from Doug’s company.  We all enjoyed long showers, then back downstairs.  Kelly had arrived home from some errands and we all caught up, then it was time for Doug and I to make a beer run and try to find the Europcar office where I had arranged a rental car.  Renting a car in Argentina is not like renting a car in the US; more on that over on OpenKimono.

Our first stop was the Coto minimercado located near the center of San Isidro.  Doug grabbed some of the local Malbec wine while I hunted down beer.  I couldn’t find anything in a box or six-pack carton, so I ended up with a dozen loose bottles of Corona.  It seems the most common packaging for beer in Argentina is big, 750ml bottles which are shared around like a bottle of wine.  Makes sense, but different.  It’s funny how mundane things can become interesting.

We then set out for the car rental place which was supposedly near Aeroparque Jorge Newbery.  Like some European cities, BA has an international airport (Ezeiza) and a domestic / regional airport (Newbery).  These two airports are about 40km apart.  Flights from the US, Europe and so forth go to the Ezeiza; flights around Argentina and surrounding countries go to Newbery.  Not sure how you’d get to someplace like Ushuaia or Mendoza from the US… possibly a long shuttle ride between the airports.

By the time we arrived at Newbery, the gray skies had turned into a full-on downpour.  One of those storms where you are soaked to the skin about 15sec after stepping out of the car.  I hopped out of the car and wandered the airport, not finding a kiosk for my car agency.  I tried to speak to a person at one of the other rental agency counters, but it was futile as my Spanish is terrible and his English not much better.  Doug and I returned to the car.  I had brought TomTom with me, with a newly installed copy of the maps for Argentina and Uruguay, so we thought we’d give that a shot.  I punched in the address I had written down off my rental confirmation e-mail and we set off in the direction TomTom indicated.  10min later we were in the CBD.  After a little looking around, we found the Europcar office.  Naturally, the lights were off and the door locked despite it being about 2:00pm in the afternoon (clearly within the office hours on my confirmation).  We decided to head home so I could try to make some phone calls and figure out what the next step might be.

As we drove along Avenida del Libertador, Doug pointed out some of the sights.  Liberator is the main drag running north from the CBD and stretches for about 25km north; sort of BA’s version of Wilshire Boulevard.  Along the street are dozens of high rise apartment buildings where many of the more affluent Porteños reside.  There are also all sorts of businesses, including high-end car dealerships, restaurants and boutique shopping.

While we were gone, Julie and Kelly took the girls to an outdoor Sunday market in the main San Isidro square near the Coto where Doug and I had stopped.  Unfortunately, the rain forced the market to close early, but they still had fun walking around in the pouring rain.

After we arrived at home, I called the US number for Europcar as I knew I’d get an English speaker.  Somehow, I was routed to a call center in the UK.  They told me to try back in a few minutes so I could speak with someone in the US.  I tried again and got the UK again.  This time the person agreed to try to help.  I explained the situation and she told me there weren’t any special instructions in the system for picking up a car.  Now what?

Horacio and Doug. Master chefs.

Horacio and Doug. Master chefs.

Then the BBQ guests started to arrive.  The first two were colleagues of Doug’s that were visiting from Denver for a work-related project.  Next to arrive were Mercedes and Horacio.  Our first real interaction with locals!  Mercedes works with Doug and is firmly in charge of keeping him out of trouble (she is VERY, VERY good at what she does as apparently she has a lot of practice in keeping Doug out of trouble ;-) ).  Her husband Horacio works for one of the airlines and is an avid support of the Lanús soccer club.  Both of them spoke excellent English and Mercedes offered to make a couple calls to the Europcar office to get the scoop.  I was relieved.

Meanwhile, Doug and Horacio were standing around in the downpour looking at the bar-b-que and hoping the food would eventually be cooked.   We ended up enjoying a great dinner with the other visitors including the excellent Malbec we’d bought and some of Kelly’s favorite local beer from Casa Isenbeck (this brand is brewed by Warsteiner, so obviously it’s pretty good).

We eventually collapsed into bed after a fine first day.  What’s next?

Day 2: Washington, DC and Getting to BA, Take 2

At the East Falls Church station.

We woke up the next day, got cleaned-up and made a plan for the day.  We decided to head down to the National Mall to see the Washington Monument, US Capital building and check out a museum or two. Since it was Saturday, we knew it would be pure insanity to try to drive into the city, so we grabbed the Metro train at East Falls Church and rode into the city.  The train grew gradually more crowded and we soon learned pretty much everyone was on their way to a big protest against the healthcare bill.  Listening to the people talk, it seems like there’s a whole social group dedicated to going to protests.  Some of us go shopping or attend sporting events.  These people protest every weekend.

Once at the Mall, we walked around and could see the protesters blanketing the Mall in front of the Capital.  We continued east and headed to the National Air and Space Museum.

I need gum gum, dum dum.

Apparently, you need to camp out over night to get into that place because the admission line was out the door.  We later learned this museum has a massive annex near Dulles Airport called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is supposed to be almost as good as the one in the city.  Oh well, we end up at the National Museum of Natural History where we saw minerals, mummies, bugs, a T-Rex skeleton, 40ft tall totem poles and learned about early Colonial life in the US.  Plus lunch.

Back outside, we cruised towards the Washington Monument for some photo ops, then north to the White House.  There must have been a high threat condition because there were cops EVERYWHERE and they had blocked Pennsylvania Avenue off from pedestrian traffic.  We continued walking north and ran into another pack of police trying to contain an anti-war protest which was rocking along in Lafayette Park.  We grabbed some Starbucks at the corner of 15th & I, then headed back to the Metro.

After some mindless driving around, we enjoyed dinner at Pei Wei in Herndon, VA.  It was an okay day, but nothing compared to what we were supposed to have done in Argentina: attend the San Lorenzo vs Colón soccer game with our friends.  Seeing a Primera División Argentina match was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us which United had robbed us of.  We were all bitter.

We headed off to the airport for our 2nd attempt to fly to BA.  This time, it actually worked.  Naturally, it was not without complications.  The prior evening, they had re-booked us, but had found us 4 seats in 3 different rows.  Very convenient when traveling with children.  Luckily, we were able to sort that out.  We also met again with our fellow stranded traveler.  It turns out he was a blogger and behind the top movie review website in Argentina, CinesArgentinos.com.ar.  He had been in the US for an interview with Bruce Willis to cover his most recent film, Cop Out.

Once aboard, I settle in with Erin and Julie with Grace.  Julie and Grace soon determined their TVs weren’t working.  Naturally, when you’re been assigned to sit in Row 39 of 39 (i.e. steerage), one should not expect the in-flight entertainment system to function.  We did depart on time, a pleasant surprise, and settled in for the 10hr 43min overnight flight.

Day 1: Getting to BA and Why United Airlines is Really, Really Mean

Our big adventure began on Mar 19th about 12:00pm with Grace and Erin taking off from school at lunchtime so Grandma Cindy could drive all four of us to the airport in a smallish snow storm.  The snow had arrived early in the morning, but up to that point, it hadn’t been sticking.  We made it easily enough, checked our bags, meandered through security and hung out at the gate.  Our first leg was a flight to Washington Dulles to make our connection to Buenos Aires Ezeiza.  The plane boarded on-time and we figured we were home free.  Not so fast, my friend.  About 15min after our scheduled pushback from the gate, the captain announced we were holding at the gate to wait on baggage for one of the passengers.  We later learned the missing cargo was also some stuff for the US Mail.  20min later, we finally pushed back, but by then the snow was really coming down, so off to the de-icing pad we went.  An eternity later, we finally took off: 2hrs after our scheduled departure time.  And what was our layover duration you ask?  2hrs 6min.  Gonna be tight.

We ended up touching down about 1hr 45min late.  Our connecting gate was on the same concourse and we sprinted to the gate figuring the worst that could happen would be bags arriving a day late.   When we got to the gate, there wasn’t a soul in site.  Not even a gate agent.  As we wandered the boarding area, we noticed the gate agent walking back up the Jetway from the aircraft.  We explained what had happened, presented our boarding passes and he told us to hustle down to the plane.  When we got to the door we were greeted by a person in plain clothes (very, very weird) who indicated the aircraft was full and the door was summarily slammed in our faces.  The gate agent shooed us back up to the boarding area just as another passenger raced into the boarding area.  The five of us were told to find our way to United Airlines customer service center.  And have a nice evening.

There we were.  10:00pm at night.  Julie is crying.  Grace is crying because Julie is crying.  Erin is standing there going “Eh. Whatever.”  I am furious.  We marched to customer service where we were greeted with the following options:

  1. We can get you a flight to Miami, then on to BA on American Airlines.  At 6:00pm the next day.
  2. We can get you on the same flight we were supposed to be on, but 24hrs later.

Some options.  We chose door # 2. and decided that if we were going to be stuck in Washington, we may as well make the best of it and enjoy the sights.  There are way worse places to be stranded.  Once re-booked I inquired about lodging for the evening and was told that our delay was due to weather and not United’s problem.  Excuse me?  We would have made it in time had they not sacrificed the first 35min waiting on bags and US Mail.  All around me in customer service were other passengers that had been on our flight that had also missed their connections and were looking at a long night because there are not many flights to Scranton, PA or Knoxville, TN at 10pm.  After 45min of haggling and arguing, I finally convinced the shift supervisor they were being totally unreasonable.  Apparently, my United Premier Executive status tipped the balance.  (What a dubious thing to have an elite status on an airline that is so clearly out of touch with customer experience.  Don’t get me started on what they did to us on our last trip to Maui.)

United ended up giving us a pair of hotel room vouchers and about $50 in food vouchers.  Then the supervisor asked if we wanted our luggage brought to the baggage return.  It was perhaps the most ridiculously rhetorical question I have ever been asked.  We are stuck here for 24hrs and are sweaty / smelly from running all over the place and arguing with airline people.  Um, no, we don’t want our stuff.  We’ll just wear these clothes for another 36hrs.  Gosh.  I found a rental car quick on Kayak.com and we prepared to head out to get our bags.  As we did, we noticed the other stranded passenger (an Argentine man) from our flight sitting on the ground with his laptop trying to figure out a place to stay (he was apparently unworthy of the “courtesy” we had received).  Julie and I decided to offer him one of our hotel vouchers and told him he could go sightseeing with us the next day, but he must have thought we were a family of American-style ax murderers or something and declined.  I gave him my business card in case he changed his mind, we said hasta mañana and off we went.

By 11:30pm, we’d made it to the very nice Landsdowne Resort in Leesburg, VA  where United had sent us (no kidding… it was really nice and we were very surprised), ate some Panini sandwiches Julie had picked up before we left the airport and everyone hopped into bed.  12:36am.  End of Day 1.  Yikes.

Familia Fuller en Buenos Aires

Somehow we’ve gotten in that habit of taking our big annual family trip during Spring Break.  This year was no exception.  However, instead of Maui or some other US destination, we headed south.  WAY south.  Buenos Aires, Argentina where we would be staying with the Parkers, family friends from Broomfield who are on an ex-patriot assignment.  Because of the nature of this trip and it being a foreign destination, I have a lot of material to share with readers of this blog as well as my practically defunct OpenKimono blog.  I’m going to split the content up and share it across both sites.  On this blog will be our daily account of activities.  On OpenKimono will be more “technical” posts talking about the challenges and tricks of traveling not only in a country where we didn’t know the language, but also within a massive city with nearly 13M residents in the metropolitan area.

Now, without further ado…

Season’s Greetings 2009

From the rooftop of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

From the rooftop of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

It’s that time of year… welcome to the Fuller’s 3rd Annual end-of-year recap (2007, 2008)!  This year Julie and I were so busy leading up to Christmas break we didn’t even have time to send out regular greeting cards in the mail.  So don’t feel snubbed if you didn’t get one from us since nobody did.

However, we did receive an array of cards and letters from friends and family and enjoyed them all.  But even the best of those cards pale compared to the multimedia extravaganza you are about to experience: if it wasn’t for Avatar, surely the critics would be calling this post 2009’s trend setting, technological entertainment marvel.  Probably.  And now for our last post of the decade…

The year began quietly enough with January and February quickly rolling by with school, the girls playing basketball and some family visits from Omaha.  My work with Point B transitioned from one client to another and Julie helped to put the finishing touches on another Bal Swan Children’s Center fundraising event.  Julie and I welcomed a well earned ski weekend away in Breckenridge, CO leaving the girls to enjoy time at home with Aunt Kris and Grandma Cindy.

By March, the pace had started to pick-up.  With the commencement of soccer practice, our 6-day-a-week soccer habit was reinstated.  Between weekday practices and weekend games, it seemed like there was hardly time for anything else.  Still, Julie and I found time to attend the Bal Swan Ball together while Julie continued her tireless support of PTA activities.  At the end of the month, we jetted off to paradise to enjoy spring break at our favorite spots on Maui.

April and May continued with more soccer and I managed a few work trips to Hartford, CT.  The girls hit the books and finished their school year ready for the summer holidays.  Meanwhile, I became more and more engaged in extracurricular Point B activities.  With a tough economy, it was all hands on deck to help drive the business.  While a lot of work, I learned quite a bit about networking, consulting and it created opportunities for me to spend more time with a fantastic group of colleagues: I can’t say enough nice things about the great people I work with these days.

Erin, Grace & myself atop Vail Pass

Erin, Grace & myself atop Vail Pass

In June, I gathered a new soccer coaching credential, sacrificing a weekend in exchange for my USSF State E-License (following the NSCAA State Diploma I’d earned in March).  Meanwhile, Julie and the girls began an action packed agenda of soccer camps and summer leagues, CARA Track at the high school, summer reading and math programs and near daily trips to the neighborhood swimming pool.  We hit the road to spend Independence Day in Bismarck and made time for an early August weekend rendezvous in North Platte, NE with Julie’s family.

In between, Sam the Dog celebrated his 13th birthday (oh my!) and the whole family took part in supporting the Courage Classic, a multi-day charity cycling event which raises money for The Children’s Hospital in Aurora, CO.  Each year, Point B sponsors a rider’s aid station at the top Vail Pass (elevation 10,662’).  Julie played a major part helping with preparations this year’s station, covering my butt while I was away with client related travel.  The girls had a great time greeting hundreds of riders as they finished the long climb up the pass.

In late August the girls also returned to classes at Aspen Creek K-8 School: Grace to Mrs. Dery’s 4th Grade class and Erin to Mrs. Kallsen’s 1st Grade class.  Grace is showing a real talent for research, which dovetails nicely with her love for science and writing.  Erin, meanwhile, has become a legitimate book worm and has been part of the advanced math group since early in the term.  Late in the month, Grace celebrated her 9th birthday with an outing to Boulder’s Northern Colorado Fencers.  She and her gang of musketeers learned formal techniques like lunge, parry and riposte followed by a traditional “spazz-out berserker” style battle commonly seen on the school playground.  No one was injured, so we considered it a highly successful outing.

Deep fried fowl

Deep fried fowl

While September was pretty quiet, a clear hi-lite was seeing Jason Mraz play a sold out Red Rocks Amphitheater.  The tickets were a late 11th anniversary gift Julie and I gave ourselves.  The venue was cool, the music memorable and my date was a babe.  Would could be better?

In October, Grace’s soccer team competed and earned the U10 Girls “Bronze” division championship at the annual Colorado Youth Soccer (CYS) Cup soccer tournament.  Also, at the end of October Erin celebrated her 7th birthday at the local roller skating rink.  Erin’s crew swarmed the concrete to display their mad skating skillz (ahem), then attacked the birthday cake with vigor.  After more than a 25 year hiatus, Julie and I found our return to roller skating sort of like stepping into a time machine.  Very little has changed aside from the emergence of in-line skates.  Everything else from the music to organized games (skate limbo!) and snack bar was pretty much as we remembered it being in junior high school.  Scary.

With November’s arrival, another festive holiday season kicked off by a Thanksgiving dinner attended by Denver-area family members Kris, Scott, Denise and Cindy as well as long time friends Raghu and Maruthi with their daughter Laya.  For the second year in a row, we had vegetarians in attendance, but that didn’t stop me from tackling my first deep fried turkey out in the driveway.  It was good, but not great.  However, I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to my next fry attempt.

Which brings us to the end of the year.  As I look back, perhaps I spent a little too much time working this year, but that’s life sometimes.  I’m optimistic about the future and looking forward to a year that was better than the last (which wasn’t too bad).

And now a final holiday message from Grace and Erin (the aforementioned “multimedia extravaganza”):

Season’s Greetings including Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Muharram and Joyful Kwanzaa.