We had a quiet Christmas in '99, and stayed up late for the Big Rollover. As we know now, the sun came up the next day with almost no changes in the world - but we had backed up our computer files anyway!
On January 12 we all got on a plane and headed for New Zealand. As Jacq's birthday is on the 13th, it was swallowed up by the international date line. However, this sad tale of woe resulted in several in-flight celebrations, including an announcement from the pilot.
To describe everything we did over those 3 weeks (plus one in Hawaii) would take several pages (see the website!). So let us just say that it was fantastic! The country side is beautiful, the people are warm and friendly, and we got to visit with many of them, including Laura's cousin Linda and family. We spent our last week in Auckland to watch the Americas Cup sailing races, which were very exciting. We met Dawn Riley, the head of the America True team, as we watched the races from their spectator boat; Jacq was thrilled. Auckland harbor is beautiful and the IACC racing boats are impressive. The kids brought the laptop and succeeded in doing most of their assigned homework as well as emailing back to friends in the States.
"On the way back" we stopped in Hawaii for a week to see the Wadas and the Kuhns, followed by a quick stop to see Elyce in SF (and celebrated Dan's 39+1 birthday), before returning home, having missed the worst of the cold weather - good timing all around.
The kids quickly got back into the rhythm of school - Dan and Laura took a bit longer.
While we were gone, we had the old plaster replaced in Jacq's room, the stairwell, and the upstairs and downstairs hallways. Everything is now much brighter and feels larger.
February brought the start of rehearsals for the Spring school play, which was a medley of fractured fairy-tales. March brought the start of Spring soccer, which when added to the music lessons, volleyball, Girl Scouts, and the occasional concert or movie, ate up almost all of our time.
The day after the play was over, we went down to the bird store in search of a cockatiel. Ben and Jacq had done a fair amount of research on the topic of pet birds, and Laura had confirmed that she shouldn't be allergic, and we all agree that it would be more fun than the fish. As Dan and Laura waited for a salesperson, Ben and Jacq stood near the cockatiel playpen. In less than a minute, one happy young bird had decided that we met the criteria, and so he jumped up on Ben's arm. All of us understood the significance of this, and so Pern came home with us. If you've read Anne McCaffery's dragon books, you'd agree that Pern was the right name. Ben quickly became a dutiful caregiver, preparing the special weaning mix and cleaning the cage. We all soon adapted to having Pern on our shoulders (he loves to chew on jewelry), although Jacq has been disappointed that Pern always prefers to ride on the tallest person in the room.
In April, Laura and Dan went to the first of a series of panel discussions hosted by a favorite mystery author (SJ Rozan). She interviews a chosen mystery author in a relaxed setting, and follows that with a Q&A with the audience. We've heard Mary & Carol Higgins-Clarke (great!), Rob't Parker (weak), Sara Paretsky (thoughtful), and the NY Times Mystery editor (fun).
Soccer season progressed, with Ben continuing to lose, and Jacq continuing to win. Midway through the season, Ben switched to goalkeeper. He did extremely well, although the defense was so weak that he actually worked up a sweat during his games. A major shake-up happened in the soccer club's administration, which resulted in Dan becoming even more involved.
As the school year came to an end, we ran the main stage for the middle school talent show (again!) and put our rock band on stage to play "Heading for the Light", "Love Potion #9", and "Something to Talk About". A week later, we went with Ben to his Jazz Band competition at a local amusement park (fun!). A week after that, we had our annual June XMAS party, which included the typical 60 adults and 30 kids, but broke the record for overnight guests at 10! We were honored to have so many friends stay for breakfast.
Throughout the Spring, Dan had been talking to his recently rediscovered good friend David, who Dan and Laura had been close to in college. Two things emerged from the numerous emails that went back and forth to Chicago. First, Dan got invited to write some "Bass Guitar for Beginners" columns at the Online Guitar College. Since he has been a beginner for over 20 years, Dan felt he could explain several things to other beginners.
Secondly, we decided to have a multi-everything rock jam here in Westport. So we gathered 9 musicians (4 guitars, two saxes, bass, keyboards, and drums) from all over (Chicago, NJ, NYC, and Westport) and played raucous rock&roll for 3 days. It was amazing! Ben had just started learning the flute in July, and he played wonderfully on one of David's original ballads. Ben also wailed on the sax. Laura showed off her chops on her new Strat, received for her 39+1 birthday. Good friends, good music, good food, it doesn't get any better! (pix on the website!)
As we know, Jacq looks up to her brother, and often chooses to follow his path, but she tends to put her own style on it; she loves soccer, but she plays more offense than Ben, she wants to play the saxophone, but she opted for Alto, not Tenor. So while Ben was trying out the flute, Jacq was trying the alto. After her first lesson, the teacher said that she had excellent potential, playing several notes quite clearly. However, Jacq's arms were exhausted after just 30 minutes, so she switched to clarinet, but only until she's strong enough to carry the sax!
As always, we went sailing for a week, visiting Newport for the first time by water. We all went sailing on an America's Cup 12-meter racing yacht one evening (Jacq was at the helm for half the time and Ben worked the grinders), and met up with the Charboneaus and the Downeys in Jamestown RI. Later, we finally caught - and ate - a bluefish!
And then the summer was over. School and soccer both started before Labor Day (I hate that!). In addition to being the manager for Jacq's team, Dan was in charge of the forty 10-14 year-old referees who make the calls in the Rec League.
We went to the last of the Lasley cousin weddings, on Cape Cod. It was good to catch up with the rest of the cousins (first and removed), and Ben got to go fishing with the "pros".
From Labor Day to Thanksgiving, we never had a free afternoon; we knew it was going to be crazy, but the addition of the fall play really pushed us over the limit. As Stage Manager, Ben was the senior student crew leader, responsible for everything. He spent his afternoons taking notes and organizing the tech and stage crews. As always, he exceeded our expectations, and this show (Bye Bye Birdie) had fewer than the normal number of mishaps.
Over Columbus weekend, we took Ben to interview at a few prep schools. On our way home, he declared that he could get along quite nicely at any of them, thank you. In his mind, he's already applied and been accepted, he's just marking time until he has to pack. Hopefully, the admissions officers will agree.
Thankfully, the fall weather stayed warm well into November. Unfortunately, this encouraged Dan to go outside with the bird one day, who decided that this was indeed a good day to fly. Four hours later, in an amazing sequence of events, Laura heard and then spotted Pern on a neighbor's roof, and quickly retrieved him, thus sparing Dan's life as well.
Just before Thanksgiving, life reached a crescendo, and then quickly died down. We spent the entire 4-day weekend alone, reading and sleeping. We hope to continue this quiet pace right through the Holidays. We're sending Ben and Jacq down to the Lasley Gpts in Florida over XMAS break, so it'll be even more peaceful. Our plan is to take it easy until mid-February, when the entire process starts up again.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season! Dan, Laura, Ben and Jacq, and Pern too!