Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

2008 Holiday Letter

13 December 2008

It is mid-December and jazzy holiday music is playing on my stereo, Marissa is assembling the petroleum-based evergreen tree in the front room with Claire’s assistance, and Chris is packing away the plastic Halloween pumpkins from atop the TV hutch. A harried Katie is catching up on some math homework. We are a little behind with putting up the Christmas decorations because we’ve just come back from a week at Disneyworld. The two ten-year-olds had been there before when they were in preschool seven years ago, but this was the first time with six-year-old Claire. We each had our own set of guidemaps as we scoured all four of the parks trying to game the FASTPASS system. The guidemap Claire picked up at Epcot was in Portuguese, but she didn’t seem to mind. They all had a very good time and half the time we were at the parks until they closed.

As it turns out, Katie is quite the daredevil, but she is conscientious enough to ask for permission to scream before the rides. Claire is right at the 48″ height limit for many of the rides, so when she didn’t quite reach the bar at the Rock ‘n’ Roller® Coaster® Starring Aerosmith® at Disney’s® Hollywood Studios®, I got to take Katie on the loopy ride a second time. Afterward, over ice cream, I tried in vain to explain centrifugal force to the girls and another mother’s home schooled daughter.

Katie herself was schooled from home this spring. She wears her heart on her sleeve and was having severe self-esteem issues that were affecting her schoolwork. We had a Hilliard teacher visit a couple of times each week to help her keep up with her classmates. While she still hasn’t fully accepted how great a kid she really is, she resumed regular school attendance with her sister this past fall in the fifth grade.

Claire is in first grade with the same teacher Katie had four years earlier. Katie frequently volunteers in Claire’s class during recess. We got a little report card the second day of school indicating we hadn’t taught Claire enough over the summer, so most evenings at our household it is constant homework for our kids until bedtime.

Gymnastics lessons continue with all three. The older two girls’ new “Prep Optional” classes now require at least eight hours of training each week not including the competitive meets. They have special outfits and accessories to go with them. Marissa’s floor routine is performed to a KT Tunstall song while Katie’s is some odd electro-pop ditty that sounds like the boops and beeps of a computer’s dial-up modem. The girls, of course, are patently adorable and we are proud of their efforts.

As if those weren’t enough extra-curricular activities, Katie, following in the footsteps of her mom, has picked up the flute and Marissa has picked up the clarinet just like her dad. Something had to give, so we’ve put piano lessons on hiatus, much to Daddy’s chagrin who was really hoping to pass that passion onto someone. Claire will probably start piano lessons next year, so the pressure is now on her.

Last year I wrote extensively about Chris’s stomach and it is now much better than it was. Nowadays when she gets sick to her stomach, it is just because she’s thinking about who she’s married to, and not because of any chronic medical condition.

But we still managed to earn frequent flier miles at Columbus hospitals though. Over summer break, Katie had eye surgery. Occasionally her eyes would not follow each other, but now they are much better. We had tried to solve the problem with eyeglasses alone, but it hadn’t solved the issue. She still has eyeglasses, but only to correct her farsightedness now. Marissa has new Sarah Palin-esque eyeglasses, but we won’t go there, now will we.

Although it doesn’t count as surgery, Katie’s braces are now off. Within weeks of having them put on, her front two teeth straightened quite a bit so she only needed them on for a half year. There is now more room for more adult teeth to come in, but we assume she will need braces again in a few years as there’s still not much room for the rest of her adult teeth.

Marissa so far hasn’t needed braces, but in the span of two days in October, she lost three baby teeth-the last one she pulled out. I have no idea why, but years ago Chris decided pulled teeth were worth more to the tooth fairy, so Marissa was able to replenish the piggy bank quickly after splurging on Wii Mario Kart a few days earlier. Less than a month later, she says another tooth is loose. After this fall’s meltdown in Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps, I’m considering switching to Dental Futures.

As required per our implied prenuptial agreement, I went on the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure in June for the fifteenth time but this time I did not ride the week alone. Marissa and I were on the new tandem with Katie attached on a third wheel Trail-A-Bike. Even though the three of us had trained in the spring for hundreds of miles, I almost didn’t make it through the first day with 60 miles of hills and constant headwinds. Thankfully, we were also riding with my wife’s cousin, Karen Lorenz. Halfway through the first day, I ended up riding her regular bike with Katie’s Trail-A-Bike attached while Karen rode my tandem with Marissa. But that was only after stopping every few miles to temporarily swap lots of parts (seats, pedals, packs, panniers, tools, and kids). Since Karen and I were about the same size we were good for the last couple of hours of the day.

Knowing I had to pace myself for the rest of the week, Chris drove to north central Ohio to pick the third wheel and I ended up taking turns with the girls on just the tandem. Katie was the first half of the week and Marissa was the last half. It was much easier and all three of us had a blast: Lots of quality, fun father/daughter time.

Towards the end of the summer, even Claire grew big enough to ride the tandem, albeit barely with the child crank-shorteners. Her first real outing was a 25-mile breast cancer awareness ride. She enjoyed the pink sugar cookies at the end. Now there are three girls that want to go on GOBA next year. My ego is sufficiently stroked.

As this is the second to last paragraph of our annual holiday letter, I will make the obligatory mention of my employment situation. The economy has affected Kentrox just like it has many other companies and this fall I survived another round of company layoffs. This was the ninth in the fourteen years I’ve been there. I continue to hope for the best, but am trying to widen my professional skill set in case the need arises. Now that Claire is at school for a full day, Chris can work a couple days a week during daylight hours at Grant Hospital. The economic downturn does not appear to reduce the number of gunshot wounds and motorcycle accidents handled by the orthopedic practice.

My blog is no longer. It only took me a couple years to realize that the few who were reading it were doing so out of pity. A couple years from now I’ll wise up and stop updating my Facebook page. In the meantime, this letter is the best chance I have with a somewhat captive audience. My family and I wish you all a happy, prosperous (but not ostentatious enough that I would be jealous) holiday season and New Year.

With peace,

Ken, Chris, Marissa, Katie, Claire (and Cooper the cat)