Snapshot 8•1•11

August 1st, 2011

The year 2011 AD is 60% over as I type this and it’s about time I describe a temporal snapshot of my family’s life today. Like many people much of my life revolves around my family. They are the people that mean the most to me and with whom I choose to spend as much of my time as possible.

My wife Ruth and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary last month and recently our relationship has been rejuvenated and we seem to have recaptured a spark and happiness in it that had waned in some aspects over the years. Our goal now is to determine to continue and enhance this trend.

Ruth spends a great deal of time volunteering at the schools of our children. She is the president of the Parent Teacher Organization of the school our middle child, Gideon, attends. We joke that she spends as much time in the building as most of the teachers- and more than some of them. She sees it as not only a responsiblity, but a joy to make sure that every child in the school knows that she cares about them. Some of the kids make that a challenge, but it’s one she’s up to. It’s a heart-warming experience to be out someplace like the grocery store and have a kid come up to say “Hi” and get a hug from Mrs. Waggener.

Last year Ruth received the “Heart of the School” award. The teachers and staff of the school nominate and vote on candidates who can most accurately be described as the “Heart of the School”. This award is not given out every year- only when it’s felt to be warranted. Ruth was given a customized plaque and her name appeared in the local newspaper in an article describing some of her achievements and efforts. She is quite proud of this award and rightfully so. She has also been nominated to receive a regional award called “Those Who Excell” given to those who go above and beyond the call of duty whether they are volunteers or school staff. Later this year she and I will go to a dinner in Springfield, IL to hear the results of the nominations.

Our oldest son Isaiah is 12 and will be entering 7th grade in just under two weeks. His 6th grade report card was excellent- far better than any I ever received. He was on the Honor Roll all year long. He has developed sufficient scholastic habits- well, once again far better than I ever had. He does his homework every day. Ruth has he and brother Gideon on a routine. They get home, mess around and relax about 30 minutes and then get on the homework. I think having a routine which includes some down time upfront helped a great deal in developing good homework habits for the boys. He could use some improvement in time management skills on long-term school projects, but then who couldn’t?

In the fifth grade Isaiah started playing the upright Bass. Evidently he has some natural talent because his impressive homework habits have not spilled over into the realms of instrument practice, nonetheless he received a $100 private tutoring scholarship from the shool district in 2010. He has continued to do well playing (though also not practicing as he should) in the sixth grade. When the Alton Middle School orchestra when to a regional competition they received a score of “First Superior” which is one rank below the highest. They were the only sixth grade orchestra at the competition. Now, of course, the score was not due solely to Isaiah’s marvelous playing, but he was a member of the orchestra and his teachers are always encouraging and complementary when they discuss him with us. This year is the second that he has attended the string camp given at the middle school. Last year he attended one week, this year he will attend two. He’s already finshed the first week and has decided (and actually demonstrated at least some determination to follow through) that he is going to practice this year.

Gideon is 7 and will be starting second grade. Gideon can be very moody and shy at times, but he’s usually a cheerful little fellow. He is very methodical in what he does and his handwriting is far better than Isaiah’s mainly because he writes slowly and carefully. He’s also a very good artist. He, like his brother, loves to draw. His subjects of choice frequently, again like his brother, are pulled from the Star Wars milieu, but are not strictly limited. He also likes animals and is good at drawing them.

He’s also very responsible for his age when it comes to getting his schoolwork done. He’s on the same routine Isaiah is: get home, mess around a bit and get on the homework. Gideon is usually done and playing before Isaiah is finished. Part of this is because he was doing 1st grade homework and Isaiah was doing 6th grade homework, but a bigger part of it is that Gideon can just focus on it and get it done. Sometimes Isaiah takes three times longer to get his done because he spends 30% of his time griping about how long it’s taking, 30% doing it, and 40% switching between doing and griping. Gideon just gets his homework done and goes outside to play with the cats.

Elsie Rose is 4 years old and she’s a cute, sweet little thing, but she has her personality traits. When she was just a bit less than two years old she earned her family nickname: BossyBird. Last year she was awarded the upgrade of Little Princess BossyBird which she continues to live up to mainly through the use of her powerful scowling eyebrows. Fortunately they’re only employed when deemed necessary.
Although she displays heavy influences of having been raised with two older brothers, she is a girly girl. Her favorite color is pink and she loves Hello Kitty, princesses, mermaids, My Little Ponies and et cetera. She’s also a little clothes-horse, er filly. Frequently she’ll decide when she gets up that it’s a dress wearing day and she’s got a selection to choose from- which she does.

She’s had one year of half-day preschool and she’ll be starting all-day preschool in a few weeks. The other day she got a backpack and matching lunch bag. She likes to wear and play with them. It’s funny to see her with the backpack on since it’s almost as tall as she is. They’re pink (of course) with owls on them. Her room is also decorated with owls which seem to be one of the in things lately.

As far as news about me- well, I’m still just Roger. However, I have begun improving in one notable direction. I’ve been losing weight from exercise– I’ve been riding a bicycle. When I first started back in March, a three mile ride wiped me out. Now my rides are limited not by distance, but by the time I have to spend on them. I’m no randonneur by a longshot, but I have made great strides in my cycling abilities. The longest continuous ride I’ve done so far was 30 miles at an average speed of about 11 mph. Three or four times I’ve ridden my bicylce to work which doesn’t necessarily sound impressive until I remark that my office is 22 miles from my home with several major hills. I really wanted to become a bicycle commuter and ride almost every day, but I gave up that hope rather quickly. Not due to the effort involved, or the distance, but the time required. If I was a single guy I might have stuck to the idea, but with a wife and three kids (two of them young) at home being gone an extra 5 hours every day was not viable. So now I ride when I can- weather and time permitting I try to at least go for a brief spin almost every day.

Just about from the start Isaiah has been riding with me. In the beginning he had a crappy bike Ruth’s brother Mark gave him. It was too big for him, weighed a ton and had wheels bent like Pringles. It was much harder than it should have been for him to keep up with my road-style bike, but I kept it slow for him and he battled it out. What didn’t kill him made him stronger and he got strong pretty quickly. After a month or so I found a good deal on a used bike at a bike store and with a properly sized, better quality bike he’s doing great and we usually have a wonderful time riding together.

Another improvement in my life is that I have a new job. I work for the same company, but I am in what we call Building 2 and I do software configuration and hardware testing now instead of 3D modeling. I enjoyed (and still enjoy in my spare time at home) 3D modeling, but I enjoy the atmosphere in Building 2 much more than that in Building 1. I’ve left the cubicle farm. Building 2 is spacious and sparsely populated- and I no longer spend my days cheek-by-jowl with people passive-aggressively whinging about the negativity of the environment, which is much better for my personal attitude and quality of life and I like the work.

So as I look back I see the children growing and developing, and our lives and the life of our family progressing through time. We’ve moved forward in several ways over the past year. Like anything, we’ve had achievements and defeats, but the trend is always upward.