Xmas Letter 2002

Great Christmas Greetings to one and all, same and sundry, sane and otherwise inclined...

As I sit down to empty my mind once more during this 'time of giving', I note that the government gets more of my money than the Royal Canadian Mint is giving to me (a timely Cdn comment). Be that as it may, I asked Joan for a bit of inspiration and as usual she came through with more than I expected. Twice as much actually. Credits for this letter go to her, debits come to me. (That's an accounting joke for un-initiated in the crowd).

When we left you last Christmas, we were still in recovery mode. Things progressed rather well although slower than Joan had hoped. By June, Joan was relatively back to where she was before her surgery, doing the work of 6 and half people (herself, the kids and half of my work - I still take out the garbage on alternate Mondays). There have been 2 scans and so far nothing is showing up, which is good. Thank God.

As Joan's recovery moved forward, the sound of 'Mom, can you help me with this' was being heard more frequently. Prior to that it was 'Dad, don't you know where anything is?'. Of course, I could always find the Peanut Butter. But how was I to know that each child has its own mustard, mayonnaise, meat, cheese, and bread combo. They also have their own special order for their eggs. Finally I realized that Joan was moonlighting as a short order cook. And all I knew her as, was a fine dining chef and part-time barrista. With me in charge it was strictly self-service. Now, everyone is again leaving for school well rested, well fed and with a peaceful state of mind. Oops, that's the Cleavers, not the Goossens.

Before we get too far into the letter, I must add an editorial comment. The offspring want you to know that most of what I say has no bearing in reality and that I tend to make things up about them. I would agree - the only things true in here are the facts. The rest is just filler. Therefore there will be no jokes, no exposure of personal foibles, nothing that will remotely embarrass anyone. In short it will become like a regular Xmas letter. Feel free to stop reading now. The chill is on. It was easier to write these when the kids couldn't read.

This is a peak year for us. We have 4 girls in high school and even Natalie has reached double digits. Even the principal wanted to do a write up in the school paper because he didn't think this had happened before. We persuaded him not to. I wear the facts like a badge of honor and it gets attention whenever I mention it (some positive, some confused, some in disbelief). Of course high school is that time when you find yourself not quite as involved in your kids lives as before. Your only functions appear to be handing out cash and helping with the homework. Chemistry is harder than I remember but the teacher told me that if I worked at I could get it. I had been hoping not to repeat highschool.

The summer holiday was another road trip. We still have to make the same stops for the same reasons but at least we aren't buying pampers. Our Suburban made it to Manitoba to help us celebrate Joan's parents' 50th wedding anniversary. While there, we managed to get in some driving practice for Bethany. That's right - another one hits the road. She liked driving out there. An hours worth of driving, no hills and she didn't have to turn the wheel once. Although there aren't as many prairie dogs as there used to be, we did get the vehicle clean. Rachel enjoyed her summer holiday so much; she decided to give up her donut job as soon as we got back. I'm gonna miss that job.

Apparently, I also missed my other job. I am back at ACCPAC after a year of R & R (ranting and raving). The kids thought I should get back to work and keep them in the life to which they had become accustomed. They couldn't explain what I was doing (neither could I) and they were tired of their friends offering to share lunches with them because their dad wasn't working. Somehow selling my old comic books on eBay didn't seem like a job to them. And it was time to get back to work. Being a day trader can get old in a falling market.


Every year is marked by the changes that happen. Rachel and a group from her school went to New York during spring break. They toured a number of galleries and slept in a church in Greenwich Village. Her school art teacher organized this. Rachel also volunteered at Camp Squeah and spent a good part of the summer in the kitchen. She picked something up there, but we're not sure if it's permanent. Time will tell. Her painting lessons have continued and while Tim Horton kept her busy in the spring it's been Andrew that has kept her busy in the fall. Our vehicles are getting their share of miles. Somehow, once you can drive, time spent in the car doesn't seem as long as it did before.

Bethany did a lot of things, none of which I can mention. You'll have to call for the details. She always wanted to see a real winter so she took the bus to Saskatchewan only to get stuck on the highway because of the snow. This year she's staying home. Bethany also got her 'N' in the fall. That was for driving, not listening to 'Nsync. Now we have 4 drivers and two vehicles. The girls would like another car. Beth's Young Drivers vehicle was a 4 door Ford truck which 'we just have to get' according to her. I'm ok with that - as soon as they can afford one, they can buy one. Want to get to know your kids, try teaching them to drive. Perseverance and self-control take on a whole new meaning. Of course they'll get to know you as well. We have a new rule - what happens in the car stays in the car.

Hannah fell off a horse and decided in the spring that hockey was her game. Ice hockey that is. Can you say Olympic fever? I thought you could. The chosen position - goalie, no less. Actually more. It's marginally cheaper than buying a horse and the equipment resembles that of a jousting knight. After buying the equipment, I explained to her that this had to last longer than her tennis lessons did. Lesson that is. It's her first year and she's getting steadily better. She has even gotten the odd shutout.

In the spring, Tabitha went to a gym tournament in Calgary (the highlight was without parents) and later in the Provincials she placed 4th on beam in her group. She is still enjoying it and putting in the time it takes. Then in the summer Tabitha's gym burnt down (unknown vandals) and she's now training in a warehouse. She now thinks she has bigger muscles than I do, but it's just that mine have shifted. It's the gravity effect. Or perhaps the gravy effect. Gym and high school take up most of her time. She enjoys the bus ride to school so much; she takes it even when Rachel or Bethany drives on Mondays. Perhaps that says more about the girl's driving. I'll have to check.

Natalie decided to get athletic in the spring and took up baseball. She's also started soccer. If these don't work out, she wants to be an actress. Her first gig was playing Blunder Watson in the school Xmas play - The Mall and the Night Visitor. Jolly good show. Natalie has also changed schools. And made some new friends. She also enjoys her Game Boy and most anything with a screen on it - TV, computer, I even caught her just staring at a window one day. Me, I'll keep flying in my taxi with no particular place to go.

Joan and I marked our 20th Anniversary this year. Wow. Didn't think I'd live this long. Didn't think I'd ever get married. Didn't think I'd have 5 kids. If anything else I didn't think comes true, I might be forced to loose my crusty, cynical personality. While Joan says it seems like just yesterday, I think it was just yesterday. Then I realize that we have 4 kids in high school and all 5 of them are in the double-digit age range. Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far a way. Now, it's later than I think.

At this wonderful season we hail, with the true warmth of eternity, all who read the words that pass upon this paper. At a time when the secret chamber was truly opened and the Lord of more than just the rings appeared. Merry Christmas to you all and I mean that in the most politically incorrect fashion I can muster. For the rest of you who celebrate the seasons, I send you greetings in the name of the One who truly ensures that the seasons do continue in their time, until their time is no more. And I leave you with the words of the first Christmas - Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth to men upon who His favour rests.

Love - John, Joan, Rachel, Bethany, Hannah, Tabitha, Natalie, Mistletoe (and 2 pups who are hopefully gone by the time you read this - not dead, just out of the house).

P.S. For a complete compendium of previous Xmas letters go to www.humanpilots.com

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