Sunday, December 16, 2012

We're bAAaacckk!!!

Here we are, yet again, the end of another year. There's posts, there's pictures, there's videos. Don't say we never gave you anything.

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Merry Christmas from the Claytors!

So…back for more, are you?  Well “insanity” has been defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.  You should know exactly what to expect from these little Christmas updates…you only have yourself to blame.

Chris and Kelly had a year that can legitimately be described as a blur.  Of course the concussion Chris suffered in a snowboarding wreck last January might have something to do with that?  Anyway…after finding his pants everything got back to normal – immediately hosting the annual Vertical Endeavors Climbing Competition (what exactly does “against medical advice mean” anyway?)   A busy summer included 11 days with the kids in Seoul, Korea for little bro Jay’s wedding to Juliet (see earlier blogentry.)  They returned and hit the ground running right into an ever expanding work and home schedule, having to drop away from the climbing gym for the time being.  More travel as Kelly headed to North Carolina to meet her newborn niece Perrin, and Chris’s job took him to the UK for a week.  Kelly was able to tag along for a hodgepodge tour of London and Edinburgh and she’s still asking to go back (must be the haggis…or Chris in a Kilt?)       

The Boy has had an outstanding year, starting off strong with classes at Revolution Tae Kwon Do.  He’s working his way through the ranks and attends 3-4 days weekly, including “Beast Mode Wednesday” when full contact sparring takes place.  Once again he tried his hand at snowboarding in the winter (with better success than his dad…) and took a spring break golfing trip with Grandpa & Grandma in Arizona.  In the summer he feed the Wisconsin mosquitoes during 2 weeks at Camp St. Croix.  In addition to making the Honor Roll as a new Lincoln Junior High student, he joined the band (trumpet) Jazz Band (ummm…trumpet) and is a Lego Robotics Team member (…nope, no trumpet on this one.)  Not sure what kind of job openings there are for board splitting, butt-kicking, trumpet playing, engineers…?

Finishing out her junior year, Caitlin once again threw reason aside, ignored sleep and continued to build up her musical resume.  She’s a marching band Section Leader, a top singer in all her choir groups, and achieved IMEA All-State Honors Choir status…as a Junior.  The summer was spent as usual with daily 8 hour band and choir camps, The King’s Players summer musical “Guys and Dolls” and thinking about *gasp* COLLEGE.  Starting Senior Year, she was a finalist in the district’s Concerto/Aria competition and scored a rarely seen repeat for the IMEA All-State Honors Choir.  Did I mention college?  I try not think about it…or the bills…but she has been accepted to her first choice Illinois State.  Close to home AND in-state tuition?  Good Girl !!!

Sherpa, completely unconvinced by her experience last year that ALL skunks are bad, decided to test that theory by running up on Pepe le Pew once again (we now have an at-the-ready SKUNK KIT for such lovely occasions.)  At ten years old, she is taking on “old dog” personality.  Can’t see shit, can’t hear shit, don’t give a shit.  Otter, being smart enough to stay behind her when she goes skunk hunting, is doing great.  The new groomer in town is completely smitten.  The Canine Casanova.  Shameless. 

Well it ain’t Walden but it’ll have to do.  Wait, Ima letchoo finish…but last year’s Christmas letter was the best of all time…OF ALL TIME!  I’m sure we have an interesting year ahead of us…so until next time, keep hope alive!

Yours in perpetuity,
Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, The Boy, Otter and Sherpa

Colin Goes Geek

We were a little surprised when, the summer before middle school started, Colin very excitedly told us he wanted to join the school robotics club.  We figured it was a misunderstanding on his part, that he likely had the notion that he’d either get a robot to clean his room for him, or that he’d become a cyborg and be able to shoot lasers out of his eyes. And after his performance at the big First Lego League Robotics competition, we’re pretty sure he’s capable of both. At his very first meet, with a rookie team and a rookie coach, he and his teammate managed a perfect run and scored maximum points.  Out of scores of other more experienced contenders, they came in just shy of being able to go to the National Competition. We are immensely impressed with what he’s learned in these first short months and are, shall we say, crazy proud of him.  

Caitlin the Diva

Caitlin was selected to perform in the annual Honors Orchestra Concerto/Aria Competition Finals. It seems it’s not common to have a vocalist perform either, making it even more of an accomplishment.  She sang “Dove Sono I Bei Momenti” from Mozarts Marriage of Figaro. She sounded and looked beautiful, while tormenting a poor and unsuspecting kerchief. Caitlin had a large family contingent there to offer support, a plethora of grandparents arriving by plane, train, automobile and maybe a yak, just to be there in time to hear Caitlin sing. All of the performers were gifted and wonderful, and Caitlin was very deservedly up there with the best of the best. We can’t wait to hear what she does next. Just lock up your hankies and make sure Caitlin doesn’t get a hold of them. 

Where in the World have the Claytors gone...Part II

Chris was given the woeful job of traveling to London for work, a terrible burden, no doubt. In order to share in this unenviable task, I offered (begged, pleaded, cajoled) to go along. 

And, naturally, when one is in the vicinity of so many intriguing places, surely we couldn’t just settle on being in London, right?  So we extended the trip and I managed to sort out a wee side trip to Scotland during the second half of our stay. 

While the best laid plans often go awry, I must say, we were not exactly prepared to be the unwitting bystanders to the passive aggressive American Airlines pilot strike. Yeah, that’s right, pilot was a no show and our flight was cancelled. 

We were able to be re-booked on another flight later in the evening, and arrived in London the following morning (Sunday). We hopped on the tube and went into the downtown and wandered (in a bit of a haze, admittedly) around Buckingham Palace, Covent Gardens, and Trafalgar Square, before stumbling into a pub for beer and dinner. 

The next day, somewhat less fuzzy, we head out to hit the sights, toured the Tower of London, plotted a royal jewels heist, and determined we’d not make it past the turrets before the Beefeaters took us down and we ended up in an international incident.  

The thing that seems to strike me the most about the UK is the ever present notion of time.  There is so much history, so much still standing, so much culture; all things that I find to be elusive in the states. That’s the most I can explain as to why I have such a strong affinity to being overseas. 

The next day (Tuesday) Chris head off for work and I was set free to wander the streets of London on my own. I hopped on the tube and head over to the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery to get my art fix before walking to Hyde Park , where naturally, they have parrots. What?!  Cute little green parrots…wacky. Chicago needs green parrots…don’t they get cold?  I digress…

Wednesday found Chris sampling the airline chef’s offerings for its first class patrons, while I head off in the other direction for a change of pace.  It suddenly dawned on me that the week was half over and I was running out of time, so I went full tourist mode and crammed in as much as I could possible see. I tubed over to the Royal Botanical Gardens in the morning and had a phenomenal sunny day for taking in all the cool growie things. Finally had some tea and scones with clotted cream (sounds gross but don’t let the name fool ya) courtesy of my friend Mary Ellen who sent me with money for just such a purpose. In the afternoon, back downtown, I hit the shopping district of SoHo for some gifts. I managed to squeak into St. Martin in the Fields for the Evensong rehearsal. Then I was off to see the London Eye, Parliament, and Westminster Abby before finally heading back to the hotel to prep for our next day’s train ride to Edinburgh. 

Fortunate to have a lighter work schedule than anticipated, Chris tidied up the last of the work obligations in the morning before we went to Kings Cross to catch our 4 hour ride to Scotland. I had my faced pressed against the window pretty much the whole time, trying to smell the green. 

Appropriately, it was dumping rain when arrived, and we had a rather sloshy ½ mile walk to the apartment I’d arranged in the New Town area of Edinburgh. Even in the sogginess, the city was unreal. The castle is up on a cliff, and lit up and can be seen from pretty much everywhere. I loved, loved, loved it, every last speck of all of it; Edinburgh was fantastic. We went out for some Scottish fare and beer that night to become better imbedded in all that the country has to offer. 

Morning brought a misty day, suitable for touring as we head over to the castle on the hill. We followed around some guy in a kilt, red hair, thick brogue, only to realize it was someone else’s private tour. We then made our way down the Royal Mile while on a quest to buy some art (We’ve been trying to buy art whenever we travel). We ended at Holyrood House, the Queen of England’s Scottish residence while she’s in town. We did some grocery shopping that evening and had dinner in, while Chris caught up on some more work. 

Saturday we found a great gallery and bought an original piece of art and a print that I absolutely love.  We’d found another painting, but as we’d gone to check out one last shop before deciding, another woman bought what we’d had our eye on. The afternoon took us to hike Arthur’s Seat, the old hunting grounds of royalty, if I recall the brochure. It was an…invigorating…walk up a steady hill that offered great 360 degree views of the area and a sort of Highlands in miniature feeling, as there was plenty of heather and gorse, expressive rolling clouds and a stiff wind at the top. 

Sunday was go home day, and I was loathe to leave Scotland and return to reality. The country felt the same and tried to keep us – our connecting flight delayed due to London Fog (Meteorological compliance to marketing perhaps? Those Brits!)  We were able to arrive in enough time to make our connecting flight through Heathrow (a ridiculously poor planned airport) and arrived in Chicago mid-day.

I promptly looked up emigration requirements to Scotland. I’ll let you know how that all works out. Wee bastards.