Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome to “Merry Christmas from the Claytors” 2008 edition!

If you found us on the internet at congratulations, go have a cookie. If you’re reading this on old fashion paper…go hug a tree; one that hasn’t been sacrificed for your reading pleasure.

K…here we go…

As in the past, we start with 2 new additions to the family. First, there’s our ghost, Luther. He’s been living in the house for an indefinite period of time, making his presence known only this year to us. He makes occasional noises in the dining room, and we’re pretty sure he’s stolen our space heater and a bag of green beans from the garden. Almost as exciting was the appearance of Mildred the ladybug…who hung out in the kitchen when the weather got cold, and only came out to say hello to Chris. Raise your hand if you’re creeped out yet…

She spent the summer babysitting and working at the YMCA as an LIT (they say that’s Leader In Training, but my money’s on Little Ingrate Teen.) Caitlin spent a day with Grandpa at the Shedd Aquarium doing the Trainer for a Day program, feeding beluga whales and going in the penguin habitat. One step closer to becoming a marine biologist. She and Dad ran the American Brain Tumor Association 5K race. She’s almost done with middle school, which means of course that she’ll attend High School next year. So six more signs to go until the apocalypse! She’ll continue playing French Horn in the band, and is joining the Prospect High Show Choir.
Show us your JAZZ HANDS!!!

He’s doing great in 2nd grade, and The Boy took his first climbing trip to western Illinois with Dad and fellow climber Ken Carlson. He followed Dad on a 60 foot 5.6 crack, and top roped a series of routes for a full day of vertical fun. Another season of soccer under his belt, plenty of mountain biking, hiking, and some pick up baseball games with Dad and the “big boys” have kept him very active. Perhaps most memorable was the intricate orthodontic headgear he wore for most of the year, which reminded us of a certain Oscar-winning 1991s horror flick (…hello, Clarice…)

What can we say about our wicked step-mother this year? Kelly took advantage of her break from the Land Planning
career, remodeling our kitchen and first floor bathroom. As usual she managed our garden with such finesse that she was in demand around Chicago’s Northwest ‘burbs to design and install several landscape plans through a local nursery. She’s still a prolific route-setter at the climbing gym and joined friend Heidi on a casual “all-girl” ascent of the Sentinel in Western Illinois. Wait…cute climber girls?…I may need a moment…

And now…the dogs!

Sherpa has continued her fierce defense of the homestead (just ask the gas meter reader with the newly “perforated” shorts…) We should have listened more carefully when she barked at whoever stole Chris’s bike out of the garage! Otter completed his training and is now a Certified Therapy Dog. He and Kelly visit nursing homes and hospitals to brighten the days of those going through tough patches, but his favorite is the “Reading with Rover” program for young school kids. Just think…last year he still thought his own tail was out to get him…GOOD DOGS!

Man, oh man it’s been a year for Chris. Still working the same job with the airlines, and once again he hosted a successful climbing competition with a record turn-out and a few grand raised for the Access Fund. Running races with Caitlin, climbing with The Boy, and biting utility employees with Sherpa has kept him busy. He did carve out a few days in the fall to join Bela and the guys on a trip to Colorado, climbing in Boulder, Eldorado, and Clear Creek Canyons. Although the best part of the trip may have been the massage he got from Kristie at the spa…really roughing it these days, isn’t he?

Well that’s about all my feeble mind can relate to the great-unwashed-masses. But now that we’re on-line be sure to check back regularly for more updates and entries throughout the year. You may even see prose poetry and pictures from some of the other members of the family.

The game goes to the brave! Aim small, miss small! What are you looking at? Sorry…We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and safe (but not too safe) 2009!

Hugs and polite gestures,
Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, The Boy, Sherpa, and Otter

Thursday, November 27, 2008

2007 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Claytors!

Listen up people…this will be the LAST paper Christmas letter we will mail out. It’s not that I don’t love creating it, and personally have nothing against the US Postal service, but since I went and married a bunny-loving, tree-hugging, crystal-gripping hippie? I kind of feel bad for killing this tree to make you all smile. We’re going digital next year…details to come (I hear there’s this new thing called an internet?) So down to business!

It’s been a while since we’ve actually STARTED with The Boy hasn’t it? He’s doing great in first grade getting good marks and leading his class in impromptu sing-a-longs (whether his teacher likes it or not…) Colin loves being outside, hiking, canoeing, biking, snow-shoeing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or just running in random patterns. And he played another season of youth soccer, where he loves playing goalie so he can practice his touchdown dance. Yes, I know, wrong “football” but don’t correct him. I’m really banking on the whole “no child left behind” thing…

Caitlin has made great strides in math and science, putting her on the fast track to a career where she can struggle searching for that elusive mystery of life: government grant money. She wants to be a wildlife biologist (which makes sense, having seen what all’s growing in the fetid corners of her room.) She has also continued her equestrian studies, and spent a week away at summer camp riding horses, roasting marshmallows, and growing into a teenager. That part wasn’t in the brochure, but I’ve been advised to just leave it alone. Apparently it can’t be helped. Pity me?

Sherpa and Otter, that dynamic dog duo have continued running the house as they see fit. Otter tests all the couches, beds, and laps while Sherpa fiercely guards the frontier. They’ve joined us on all adventures, going to the beach, hiking through the woods, playing in the snow. They keep each other company during the day, and the yard has been rabbit free for most of the year (not to mention mailmen, Jehovah’s Witnesses…)

“Wicked Stepmother” Kelly (she’s worked long and hard to earn that title…) has continued working as a land planner. She’s kept busy taking Caitlin to her riding lessons, keeping up the garden, the endless list of home improvements and landscaping. With the occasional outing to go climbing, canoeing, biking, or just walking the dogs, she’s the one that makes sure we’re all having fun during our mandated “Happy Fun Nights”. And don’t get her started on “Project Runway”…that one dude was TOTALLY robbed!

Last but not least, is the man of the house! King of the Castle, Master of the Domain, Leader of the Realm, yes it’s “He Who Must be Obeyed” Chris. If you believe any of that, you must be new here. As usual it’s all he can do to hold himself upright and get his clothes to coordinate. There have been plenty of bright spots this year: Work is good (still airline service industry) Climbing is good, with another great competition at Vertical Endeavors, and a new role coaching youth climbing teams, and his fist trip to Red River Gorge in years with Kelly and friends, Bela and Heidi.

We’ve all enjoyed the expanded garden this year (if we make it any bigger, I think we have to call it a “farm”) We have had some great visiting guests; especially Farmer Carrie and German Mike. We’ve spent more time in Chicago going to the beach, parks and museums, and are always trying to get outside and live the active lifestyle we love. As soon as we’re successful, we’ll let you know!

We all wish you a safe, happy, holiday season. Just remember: wherever you go, there you are. Keep you underpants clean and your powder dry – we’ll write back next year with more news. Have a great 2008!
~ Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, The Boy, Sherpa, and Otter~

2006 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Claytors!

Good Gravy…what a year it’s been! Crazy like last year so I almost just photocopied last year’s letter and sent it out (yeah, like any of you would notice…) but my better judgement kicked in just in time to realize you all need some new reading material for the bathroom. So enjoy. And wash your hands.

Chris and Kelly made it official! On October 7th they tied the knot. A wonderful ceremony on a perfect day, followed a little while later by a vacation/honeymoon to Banff, Alberta (nothing like Canada in the winter, eh!) It was brisk, but they had their love to keep them warm (eww….) Kelly started a new job in the fall and continues to add her unique touches to the homestead. And Chris is just happy to go along and provide some of the labor (as if he’d say no?)

Caitlin continued riding lessons through the summer and fall, starting to canter, jump and steer all around the arena. We’re not talking about a horse just yet, but who knows? Junior High has gotten off to a great start, with (mostly) high marks and (mostly) drama-free homework nights. She hasn’t quite gone “boy-crazy” but we’re starting to see the signs and are preparing for the inevitable. You should all feel sorry for that first boy Caitlin brings home to meet everyone. But maybe after Dad gets to beat one little boy to a pulp, it’ll be OK (mostly…)

The Boy took after his sister in summer camp and ran a mile a day, each morning, reaching a record for his age group at 30 miles for the summer. Now he’s started Kindergarten and is doing, well, as expected (?) If anyone had doubts about him being the class clown, I wish you’d have been there for the first Parent/Teacher conference. “Colin is very bright but spends too much energy trying to make his friends laugh, and impress the girls in the class; he just doesn’t know when to behave and focus.” Truer words were never spoken. We’re so proud!

The canine duo of the house continues to faithfully guard the herd. Otter does his tricks while Sherpa keeps watch over her dominion. They’ve also become an effective team of rodent killers, with two squirrels and a rabbit to their score. There’s got to be a cat around here somewhere…

It’s getting tough to be original, but this family is an endless supply of new material. We’re hoping for a slightly calmer 2007, but we also had such high hopes for Brittany and K-Fed. Life is full of disappointment, just roll with it Baby. Look for the good stuff, it’s always there!

Until next year – you’ll all just have to behave yourselves!

Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, The Boy, Sherpa, and Otter

2005 Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Claytors!
(actually 4 Claytors and an extra…but you get the idea…)

So much has happened over the past year, your feeble minds would literally EAT themselves if I mapped it all out for you. So as usual you’ll just have to suffer through with the Cliff Notes. Hey, it got me through high school…

As always, the newest member of the household takes the leadoff position. Everybody say “HI” to Kelly (hi Kelly.) Certainly everyone is aware of her importance and influence in our family, and she has finally blessed us with permanent residence here at the madhouse. She’s working as a Land Planner (her chosen profession,) and just a couple little hobbies - horseback riding, climbing, glassblowing, hippie style organic gardening and mural painting have rounded out her first full year as a Chicagoan. Frequent travels to the East Coast as well as taking in all that Chicago has to offer has really kept her on the go. It makes me tired just writing to you about it.

The Boy (Colin to those who wish to call him by his proper name, but what fun is that?) has truly begun to form a personality all his own. And if he had any “class” that personality would be “CLASS CLOWN.” He revels in his newfound ability to make us all laugh, and with the completion of the home climbing wall, The Boy has shown a drive and passion for climbing that we never expected from him. Gee, before you know it he’ll be just like his old man…skipping out on school, bumming rides to the mountains, frequenting the emergency room, hanging out with shady characters…the memories will be priceless. Get your bail money ready…

Caitlin has begun her horseback riding lessons in earnest this year. With Kelly to motivate and guide her she is well on her way to (you guessed it) bankrupting her Dad. Chaps? Boots? Lessons? No big deal, but A HORSE?!? Well we haven’t gotten that far…but who’d bet against it? Caitlin’s final year in elementary school has gone swimmingly, and she looks forward to entering the exciting world of Junior High next year. So everybody smile and tell her it will be wonderful…she can learn the horrible truth on her own. It builds character.

So in moves Kelly, and along with her? A new buddy for Sherpa. Otter is the name, and if both his brain cells are working, he’s a great addition to the animal contingent of the house. Adopted from the same shelter that gave us the stoic, honorable, steadfast border collie Sherpa…well, he’s a goofy little dog (Akita/Shepherd/Heeler mix?) but we love him anyway. The two have been getting along great and faithfully guarding their herd together.

This year has been particularly swell for the man of the house, Chris. The new job is going great (almost 2 years now and continuing to grow.) Yes, he’s still to blame if you don’t have blankets and orange juice on your next commercial flight. Wildly successful climbing competitions, home improvements, hiking, biking, traveling, GOSH…life is like a great big apple. But he doesn’t like apples, so for him it’s more like a cookie. An enormous cookie, and it’s getting sweeter by the day. No one should be allowed to have this much fun, and if he slows down and stops FREAKING OUT about it all, he might just enjoy it! Or check himself into an institution. Whatever.

So to sum it all up – with Caitlin and The Boy becoming more active, more animals in the houses, and an ever changing family dynamic, it’s been quite a year. I’ll lay money that 2006 will be no different so stay safe, be good, check your knots, fill up your car, save your money, and have a great holiday season!

With all the love we can shake a stick at !

Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, Colin, Sherpa and Otter –

See you next year !
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