Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Claytors 2015

What’s up!  All you Selfie-Stick using, Trump praising, DeflateGate Conspiracy Theorists better strap in for the bestest holiday letter you’re going to read this year!  At least this week.  OK, maybe just the most convenient one for the day, whatever day “today” happens to be.  I know…I tend to overreach sometimes.

He finished up Middle School, and Colin is officially a Prospect High School Knight.  He continued rocking steady, playing guitar and singing with his band The Difference.  In addition to playing school dances and a couple sets at local bars and festivals, they won a local Battle of the Bands, which qualified them to compete in a similar event at a seedy nightclub in Chicago (that growed ‘em up real quick!)  To round out the wholesomeness, he played Mr. Banks in the middle school production of Mary Poppins, as well as multiple supporting roles in Spotlight Theater’s Les Miserables.  So with that balance, we should be able to postpone any candlelight vigils for The Boy…at least for now!  

Caitlin had a fun ending to her second year at University of Illinois, joining her choir to perform at a Foreigner concert, and somehow wound up on stage playing bass with the band.  Yeah, it was that kind of year.  She spent another summer at home working at Dad’s office, and scored a gig singing the National Anthem at a Schaumberg Boomer’s baseball game.  Again, random amiright?  She then headed off to her 3rd year at the school, working toward a Music Education Degree.  Making one more step toward adulthood, she’s moved into an apartment with fellow members of The Marching Illini.  She’s been promoted to a Squad Leader and participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Please…PLEASE someone tell her this level of charmed life is NOT NORMAL!    

What is there to say about Otter?  He’s enjoying the quiet life of a house dog, and there’s not a bed or couch that’s safe from his epic naptime.  The comings and goings of teenagers, rock bands, and renaissance recorder players, and play dates with his next door buddy Riley doesn’t seem to faze him at all.  Good Dog!

Kelly has finished up work at the hospital and is off to bigger and better challenges starting in the New Year.  In the meantime she’s still writing and in between mandatory periods on the disabled list due to repeated broken feet and toes, she joined the Barrington July 4th Parade with the Hoofed Animal Rescue and Protection Society.  She also took a few summer nature hikes with The Boy to just get him out of the house, and hit a home run scheduling an awesome (and much needed) restful cabin vacation with Chris in Big Bay (UP) Michigan.  And lest anyone has dared forget her wicked, evil, humbling route setter skills…just swing by Vertical Endeavors and ask for one of her climbs, labeled under her super spy alias “Sally”.  Do ya feel lucky, punk?  DO YA ?      

He hasn’t run into traffic just yet…but that might be because Chris was on the move more than usual and couldn’t find a busy enough street.  In addition to route setting and clinics, he joined the revival of No Holds Barred Climbing Competition, again serving as MC.  After taking the family on super fun vacation to a friend’s Wisconsin lake house, he jetted off to Holland for a week to train some new airline staff.  That went so well, he was sent again to Germany for more of the same because speaking Dutch and German in the same month is like super easy.  Back in the states, recorder playing with The Baron’s Noyse included an actual wedding gig.  That’s right…GIG.  Someone actually paid him to wear Ren Fair clothing and play in a recorder trio for 2 hours.  Some people will do anything for love.

If there’s an emoji to truly express our holiday wishes to adoring fans, we haven’t found it.  Cactus, Pie Slice, Fist Bump, Soccer Ball, we love you!

Chris, Kelly, Caitlin, Colin, and Otter!


Immediately following their 2014 Dublin St. Patrick’s day trip, the Marching Illini found out they were going to New York City to perform in the 2015 Thanksgiving Macy’s Day parade. Because, you know, that happens to everybody right? Awesomeness followed by more AWESOMENESS! 

(Someone please tell Caitlin her life’s not real?)

The Marching Illini had a Sunday departure with a Monday arrival. After baking dozens of cookies for the 20 hour bus ride, Caitlin and the band arrived in NYC and went directly to the 9-11 Memorial followed by a boat ride, the Statue of Liberty, Macy’s pep rally, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, shopping on 5th Avenue, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller center, shopping in Times Square, Blue Man Group at Astor Place, rehearsal in Jersey, an alumni reception, pep rally in Times Square, Empire State Building visit, actually MARCHING in the Macy’s parade (with a 2am call time), followed by Thanksgiving dinner at the Times Square Marriott before seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall Thanksgiving evening…and because that wasn’t enough fun to shake a stick at, they then boarded up the buses that night and drove to Chicago to play Solider field on Saturday. 

Have you caught your breath yet? Cause we sure haven’t. Touring like they were being chased by Justin Bieber in a Wildcats uniform while singing “Wrecking Ball”, Caitlin and the Marching Illini took New York City by storm. We all desperately watched the parade on TV, each one of us inadvertently capturing a screen shot of some other mellophone player that could have been Caitlin but wasn’t. We carpet bombed Facebook with every video and photo we could get our grimy hands on, we were THAT stoked to share the experience they were having. While the televised performance went by in a flash, there’s a great video of the Marching Illini doing a crash concert smack dab in Times Square. 

Michigan almost Canadian

Why: It seems we’ve managed to establish a fine, FINE habit of traveling on our anniversary. 

When: October, just in time for fall colors.
Where: Big Bay, Upper Peninsula Michigan on a little spit of land that sticks out into Lake Superior
What: hiking, biking, swimming (yes, in Lake Superior, yes it was 50 degrees outside), fireplace fires, fire-pit fires with whiskey marshmallows, lunar eclipses and seeing the Milky Way for the first time in a long time.

How: To get to a proper cabin from Chicago:
Drive north. Drive north some more. Drive so far north you can wave to Canadians (Hi Canadians!)
Then turn left.
Drive until you get to the town that says "road ends here".
Turn right.
Take the singing road (Michigan is weird) to the house with the old guy out front that waves.
Turn left.
Don't freak out that it's a dirt road.
Take that, but stop before the car gets wet. That's Lake Superior and Subaru's can do a lot of things, but they sure don't float.
If the house looks like a forest was sacrificed in its making, then yeah, that'd be a proper cabin.

I’m with Homeland Security, he’s with Interpol

I never get to go ANYWHERE! (Does anyone believe me? No? Well then…) It’s quite rare for me to travel lately on my own, much less back to back – first for a quick Mom visit to Connecticut and the very next day to Tucson for a work gig. Art, flowers, cacti, blah blah blah computer training, computer training, and did I mention computer training, followed by storms on our one and only “short” day. No surprise there… 

Chris decided he’d travel for work too. No where good though. Just, you know. The Netherlands.  And Germany. He perused Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Frankfurt…dam.  He saw an art installation of tiny green men in  Romer square and in Amsterdam was entertained by an old man riding a scooter in nothing but a pink speedo while playing an international game of coaster Frisbee and singing “THUNDER BAY!” to the tune of Stars and Stripes forever. 

 Who had the better trip…you all can discuss amongst yourselves and let us know.

Family vacation? The hell you say.

We packed up the Winnebago…er Outback…and drove north for quite possibly our very first family car trip and vacation. 

We were entertained along the way by Caitlin:

Ok, SOME of us were entertained along the way by Caitlin, and after six delightfully family fun filled hours of driving, we arrived at the cabin, hosted by our friends the Noble’s.  Ten minutes after arrival, Kelly sprained broke her foot. Seemed like a good idea at the time. 

There was boating, tubing, water skiing, water knee boarding (not of the torture variety…well, I suppose that depends on how often one goes face down into a wake at speed…), water watering, paddleboarding, fishing, hot-tubbing, board games, card games, puzzles, go-karting, golfing, mountain biking, marshmellowing, trampolining, and maybe a little bit of drinking. Maybe. 

…sheesh the Noble’s sure know how to have fun! We had a blast and are super grateful for the invite.