Dear Friends and Family,
December and Christmas come incredibly quickly, especially when you leave town for Thanksgiving. You know the year's gone by fast when you still haven't written the Christmas thank you notes for presents from last year. Well, again, it's been an amazing and wonderful year. One left for college, but it doesn't seem that the work load has decreased. After a couple weekends in Richard's room, I did find the floor. I felt like an Indian reclaiming my land for vacuuming. In our spare time, John and I moonlight as personal chauffeurs for Robert and David. Never a dull moment...
Thanksgiving in Boston
Since Scouting is a big part of this family, the summers are usually consumed with the guys' Scouting outings and camps with little, if any, time to have a trip together as a family. However, with Richard in college this year, it's even more of a challenge. Fortunately, each of us, including Robert and David from school, had the necessary vacation days, so we could all go to Boston and be together for the whole Thanksgiving week. It was a great vacation, made special by seeing many dear friends from our MIT days. We prepared for cold weather in Boston with down jackets and sweaters, but when we got there, it was fairly warm and we felt right at home. Or week consisted of a bit of touring, seeing Richard at MIT, and renewing old friendships. Although we had walked the Freedom Trail many times before, we took in more at each of the points of interest, such as a tour of the beautiful State House, Fanuile Hall and the Constitution. There was also an "off the trail" detour to visit the Cheer's Bar and get a T-shirt for Robert.
Finding old friends started at the Boston Common near the beginning of the Freedom Trail. We stopped at the Paulist Center inorder to learn the whereabouts of Fr. Stan McNevin, who married us 25 years ago, only to find that he was now superior at the Center. We were fortunate to be able to visit him during the trip. Other MIT friends we were able to visit included Kim VanDiver, a MITSA soaring friend, who is now a professor and director of MIT's Edgerton Center for high speed photography, Dennis Barren, an undergraduate friend of John's, who is now prominent in MIT's communications systems and Prof. John Waugh, my thesis advisor. A big highlight of week was spending Thanksgiving in "the country" (i.e. Sherborn, MA) with MIT friends Tom and Margie Lynch and their boys. The visits truly made the trip memorable.
In contrast to Robert and David, Richard had classes and tests during the Thanksgiving week. After the Monday tests, his schedule was a bit easier and he was able to take David ice skating at the MIT rink. Afterwards, he gave Robert a taste of college life by taking him to classes for a day and a half and having him stay at his fraternity. It was a real treat for Robert and now he can't wait to go to college.
For anyone going to Boston, we most highly recommend two things, 1) take the "T" (subway) everywhere you can -- there are even multiday passes for unlimited travel on the T, buses and boats, and 2) visit the MIT museum just up Mass. Ave. from the Institute. It has exciting exhibits, including holograms, artistic "Rube Goldberg" machines, historic movies and exhibits on Doc Edgerton's high speed strobe photography, and a variety of some of MIT's infamous hacks. This is a little known gem that will fascinate.
Scouting: From Summer to Winter and Back
Scouting outings are a sacred cow among the guys in the family. We had to be sure our 25th wedding anniversary didn't conflict with any high adventure trek, One of the highlights of the summer was a high adventure trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmeron, NM. Richard, Robert and John were part of an 11-man contingent that hiked approximately 100-miles of Philmont's most difficult terrain -- all the while carrying 50-60 pound packs. As expected, they loved every minute. When not at Philmont, Richard and Robert summer staffed at Camp Strake - that's room (a tent without air conditioning), board (camp chow) and plenty of mosquitoes. With John, they will also staff at Winter Camp for the week after Christmas. It's pretty much like summer camp, but without the mosquitoes.
Summer in Oregon and Idaho
Most of the time our trips are planned a year or so in advance, but this year, we had no exotic vacation plans. David and I were the only ones around in late July, so we took a 10-day trip to the Northwest. In Oregon, we saw many friends and relatives, too numerous to mention, but all very special. David had a great time with Grandpa Coussens catching crawfish and shooting trap. After a week in Oregon, we flew to Boise to visit my sister Theresa and her family, who just relocated stateside from a 3-year stay in Ireland. We had a lovely time and an exhilarating float down the beautiful Boise River. We also visited the Simplot cheese factory and an impressive center for captive breeding and reintroducing birds of prey into the wild. The trip was too short and the food too good, as always. We had to leave before I grew out of my clothes. We also had to get back to Texas, because marching band practice started the first week of August and school the second.
Richard, 18, a Freshman at MIT
Richard's now a freshman at MIT and enjoying it beyond belief. His classes consist of physics, calculus, biology, an advisory class on the planets and political science. The move from Clear Lake, Texas, to Boston, Mass. was a big change, to put it mildly. When Freshman go to MIT, they are not assigned permanent housing, but make a choice during orientation. We were surprised to learn Richard wanted to join a fraternity, but it seems like a good fit for him. The house is Sigma Nu and we were pleased to learn it was a "dry" fraternity. Richard feels right at home because there many Eagle Scouts among the members, and one of his friends from Clear Lake is also a roommate. The summer before MIT was filled with memorable activities. Right after HS graduation, he captained the Clear Lake HS Quiz Bowl team at Nationals in Chicago and New Orleans. He loved (an understatement) the summer trek to Philmont with John and Robert in the crew. The rest of his summer, he spent on Camp Strake staff in the pool area. This fall, he was tapped out as a Vigil member of the National Order of the Arrow, a very select honor. We look forward to seeing him at Christmas, and, he's looking forward to seeing us. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Robert, 16, Sophomore and Quad Player
Robert turned 16 this year and is now a sophomore Clear Lake, where he plays the "quads" on the drum line in the marching band. He loves playing percussion and sounds quite good. He also competes in Quiz Bowl and continues to play piano. In Scouts, he is the troop's senior patrol leader. One of the highlights for Robert this year was playing with the band in the Astrodome. This was quite a surprise, because the CL football team was not expected win any playoff games. Fortunately, we were able to reschedule our trip to Boston so that Rob could play in the Dome. Rob also had a memorable summer and was on Junior Staff at Camp Strake. He also went with John and Richard on his first Philmont Trek, hiking one of the most strenuous itineraries. The carrying of 50-60 pounds through the trek prepared him for carrying the 50 pounds of "quad" drums when he came back to marching band practice. (The students get PE credit for marching band, and judging by the 10 pounds he lost the first week of practice, they do get a workout.) Rob got a vintage set of Ludwig drums last year for Christmas and the house hasn't been quiet since. Luckily, we have tolerant, understanding neighbors.
Dave, 13, Football and Trumpet Player
David's 13 and a 7th grader at Space Center Intermediate. He couldn't wait to play football, and, following in his brothers' footsteps, made the "B" team. He played almost every position and, in spite of all the grueling practices and running, Dave loved it. He continues to play piano and trumpet in the Honors Band. As you can imagine, David's also deep into Scouting and has earned the Life rank and about 40 merit badges to date. He is also the troop scribe and a den chief for a Cub Scout
Bear den of third graders. This past summer, he went to three weeks of scout camp at Camp Strake and El Rancho Cima, and helped out as a den chief at Camp Bayshore, the Cub Scout day camp. Next summer, he will go on his first high adventure Scout outings, namely, canoeing in the boundary waters at Northern Tier in Ely, MN with John, and Seabase in Key West with John and Robert. He is also eagerly looking forward to Winter Camp at Camp Strake this Christmas.
John - The Patches are Multiplying Everywhere
Faithful readers of these tomes know about John's passion for hobbies. This is the second year in a row I am reporting, read my lips, NO NEW HOBBIES. However, the patch collecting hobby is by no means cheap, especially when competing for vintage ones with MDs, lawyers and IPOers on E-bay. I thought that his acquiring a mega-collection would have satisfied him for a while, but no...and he want's Richard's room to expand. Even so, we made it through our 25th anniversary this year. Amazing. Besides patch collecting, John is still involved heavily in the Scouts. Besides being an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 870, he is also a district unit commissioner. This year he was awarded the Silver Beaver, a very high Scout honor for volunteers. Now, he's again preparing to teach the ham radio merit badge at Winter Camp at Camp Strake after Christmas, and getting anxious for the high adventure treks next year to Minnesota and Florida.
And for the Letter Writer -
Besides work at Exxon, I volunteer in several school-related activities. As a Science ambassador to Clear Lake High and Space Center Intermediate, I help them get grants for science and math. I also stay involved with Quiz Bowl as a reader and judge for local tournaments. In early June, I drove and escorted the Clear Lake Varsity Quiz Bowl team to Nationals in New Orleans, which was quite a kick. In Scouts, I am still Committee chairman and a merit badge counselor for the troop. Only chaired one garage sale for them this year, but I'm getting ready to pass the baton on that activity. My goal this year is to get David through his Eagle. After that, I have many projects and passions beyond Scouts that I'd like pursue. For summer exercise, I swim laps - a little over a half mile a day about 3 times/week. Winter exercise = talking on the phone.
Well, I'm out of room and out of time... Merry Christmas to All and to All a Great Year!! - From all of the Crosses