I might as well start by breaking the bad news: this year Matt is taking a sabbatical from writing our annual letter. On the bright side (for me, anyway), I’m on sabbatical for the academic year, so I have plenty of free time for reflection.
To celebrate my release from the academic grind, we took a big family vacation this summer, spending two weeks in Paris and Switzerland. One of the many highlights of Paris was a bike tour, which allowed us to see all the famous sites without waiting in line to enter any of them. We were less successful in avoiding crowds in our follow-up visits—as you can see from the photo (below) of our sons gazing in rapture at the Mona Lisa.
The boys loved the city and didn’t complain about long lines and walks (provided we kept them fueled by $10 Cokes and chocolate croissants). The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe were big hits. Notre Dame proved less impressive, even though we timed our visit to catch the free organ concert: as the pipes began to boom, Zachary shouted, “When are they going to shut that off?” We had a lot less trouble getting the boys to appreciate French food. In fact, they put me to shame with their culinary adventurism, gobbling up everything from mussels to mousse. I even got them to try the escargot first to tell me whether I would like it (I didn’t). I was on safer ground in Switzerland, where I could subsist on chocolate and cheese. There, we joined up with my parents, siblings, and their spouses and children, staying in a big chalet. Rainy weather gave us plenty of time for playing games and, of course, eating chocolate and cheese.
On the home front, Thomas and Luke are 11 and are (gasp) in the 6th grade at middle school. Thomas, who has begun to wear his hair long, his pants low, and his ears attached to an I-Pod, is exhibiting the first signs of FLEBHS—that’s pronounced “Flee-bus,” and it’s the name of the school sex ed program. Although it sounds suspiciously like an STD, Thomas tells me it stands for “Family Living, Ethical Behavior, and Human Sexuality.” Luke, who spends much of his waking hours buried in books, has managed to remain largely oblivious to the terrors of FLEBHS, though he did display cunning insight into sexual difference, explaining, “Girls are complicated. They have hundreds of thousands of emotions, and they can switch to them at light speed. Boys are simpler. They have four basic emotions: happy, mad, tired, and hungry.” (Apparently, “sad” is merely a facet of the predominant emotion “tired.”) Zachary, at 6, illustrates this rule. Fortunately, his chief emotion is happiness. He did give us a bit of a shock, though, when his first grade progress report came home indicating that his joie-de-vivre was taking precedence over his studies. But after a long, stern lecture and a brief display of remorse (perhaps better understood as fatigue), he came home the next day, announcing happily, “Mom, I think I got all excellents on my progress report today!”
Matt continues to toil at his law firm, and he’s gotten involved with local community groups, serving on the Davidson Housing Coalition and a Public Arts Task Force, where he’s unanimously appreciated for his free legal advice (among his other fine attributes). I, meanwhile, am dedicating my sabbatical to doing as little as possible. I’ve been playing around taking a portrait drawing class and illustrating a couple of children’s books. The first of these, Dinosaurs Drive Fire Trucks, was conceived by Zachary and co-authored by Thomas and Luke. Published courtesy of our local Staples photocopiers, it’s reportedly a big hit in Zac’s first grade classroom, where its release was carefully timed to coincide with the Dinosaur-land study theme.
As I write this letter, it’s sunny and 75o outside—in December! Despite global warming, regional drought, and FLEBHS in our very own home, we are happy and well. We wish you “all excellents” on your progress reports in the new year.