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jCross | all galleries >> Galleries >> The Christmas Letter > Christmas 1996
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21-MAR-2007 John Cross Photography

Christmas 1996

Christmas 1996AP.jpg


Dear Friends and Family,

Hello, Christmas greetings and salutations! It's that time again! Boy, the year went by fast! So much to do, so little time. When I sit down to think about it in one of the very rare quiet moments, this year has been a great one. The sound bites: Richard, our oldest became an Eagle. We survived, and even had a lot of fun, on our first family ski trip. Our sanity is still pretty much intact in spite of now having, not one, but two, teenage boys in the house. The man of the house has a new hobby. (Like, why are you not surprised?) The lady of the house keeps the guys and the house together (most of the time) while doing the Macarena and chewing gum at the same time. This was our year...

The First Cross Family Ski Trip - Or how Scoutmaster Cross warms up to snow

There were a lot of reasons why we didn't have a clue how this would go, but in March during Spring break, we took our first family ski trip. The planning of the trip started in the fall of last year with the possibility of a ski trip with Scout families. John, in the official capacity as Scoutmaster Cross, proclaimed that he was allergic to snow and cold weather and there was "No Way!" he would be any part of this. But, if the "Mother" of the prospective boy skiers wanted to take them, that would be a way for them to go. I expressed my interest, but as time went on, I came to the realization that it would be "something else" to take 3 first-time skiers to the slopes 1000 miles away all by myself. I told John of this, and he said, in order not to disappoint the boys, he would go. Time went by and one of the Scout parents said he would be the skiing merit badge counselor. This made things more appealing to John, especially since he's a sucker for patches. Time progressed until the night before the trip when there was more than a casual discussion about how this could have been a nice warm week of SNOW-LESS backpacking. Nevertheless, the next morning we all got in the car and caravanned to Angel Fire, New Mexico. It was warm and sunny with snow on the slopes. So far so good. We got our condo, we got our equipment, we got our lift tickets, we got lots of extra food. We were ready. The next morning, duly dressed for Arctic sub-zero conditions, we made our way to the mountain. Richard, the oldest, and the teenager of the family, decided, as soon as he saw the slopes that he wouldn't require any lessons. Since the lesson he was to take didn't start for about an hour, we decided to ride the lift up once or so. A little ice and a few falls convinced the teenager that maybe lessons wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. He progressed through the lessons as the star pupil. Robert and David took all day lessons, but they found them a little slow. They couldn't wait to go it on their own. As for John, he was warming up to the skiing vacation and appeared to be enjoying himself. That night, no one could even lift a finger, we were all too tired. The second day was the first day of free skiing for the boys, as they had learned all there was to know about skiing the first day. We were going to the top. David and I got on the chair together. He was a bit scared, but after the first run, he was fearless. He then got the name "Downhill Dave." We took the "greens", we took the "blues", we even did a freefall down "Free Flight," a "black." Dave never turned -- it was all snowplow, all the way, the whole time. Robert, the middle kid, took it all in stride. He had a great time and a lot of fun. Richard, the first day star, was about to give up after day two. We encouraged him to keep going and get his skiing merit badge, which he and Robert did. As for John, he had a great time and was ready to stay an extra day, as was fearless "Downhill Dave." However, the warm weather was taking its toll on the snow, and we all wanted to visit Palo Duro Canyon on the way back, so we called it a trip. And a good time was had by all.

Richard - 15 year-old pre-driving adolescent - Need I say more? -- Oh, yes, and an Eagle!!

Richard's now a sophomore at Clear Lake High School. The big highlight of Richard's year was earning his Eagle rank in Scouts. He has worked hard and put a lot into Scouting, more than nudged by the resident Scoutmaster. For his Eagle project, he constructed wooden playground equipment for preschool children at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church where the troop meets. His Eagle Court of Honor was held October 6th, and we were all very glad that grandparents Remi and Rose Coussens from Oregon and grandmother Mary Ellen Cross from Minnesota could come for the ceremony and reception. To date, he has earned 66 merit badges and is currently the senior patrol leader for the troop. He was on junior staff this past summer at Camp Strake and loved it. He's looking forward to being on Strake's staff and going to Philmont next summer He will also be on Winter Camp Staff at Strake after Christmas and Scuba Staff at the 1997 National Jamboree next summer at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.

Besides all the Scouting, which really keeps him busy, the next "biggie" is marching band, in which he plays trumpet. The band started marching the end of July, two weeks before school started, and made it all the way to the state finals in Waco, an amazing accomplishment. Richard is also captain of the JV Quiz Bowl team. The JV team won all their competitions and thus qualified for "letter" jackets -- of which Richard is more than proud. Besides school, scouts, band and Quiz Bowl, Richard is continuing on piano and sounds very good. It's a pleasure to listen to him. At 15, he's been agitating for autonomous automobile mobility, but holders of such keys are still resisting the ever increasing pressure.

Robert - 13 year-old new teen with drum in house - Sleep, what sleep?

Robert's now in 7th grade at Space Center Intermediate. This past fall Robert starred as a center in the school's 7th grade football B team. The daily practices were "killers," so Robert didn't mind that they didn't go on to any playoffs. He was ready for a break. Robert's love in school is band and he's into percussion. He got a snare drum for Christmas last year and would play it all the time, except that his room is just above ours. In music, he's also continuing in piano and sounding very good. As you can imagine, Robert's also heavy into Scouting. He has now earned 37 merit badges and will be a Life scout by Christmas. He is now a patrol leader in the troop and den chief for a Cub Scout Wolf den of second graders. This summer, he went to three weeks of scout camp and helped out as a den chief at Cub Scout day camp - Camp Bayshore. He is looking forward to Winter Camp at Camp Strake this Christmas and his first National Jamboree next summer.

Dave (My mind's made up) Cross - News Flash !! "I-can-do-it-myself" gene isolated in 10-year old

David's 10 this year and in the 4th grade at Armand Bayou Elementary. In school, David's in Alpha for gifted and talented students. In Alpha, the students take an enrichment class for about a half day a week and this fall, Dave took Space Science at Space Center Houston. He learned about space travel, built model planes and a rocket. The semester class culminated in a launch party, where everyone launched his own rocket. David is also continuing in piano, but when they say "one marches to the beat of a different drummer," they really must have had David in mind. Tempo is not his forte. Camping and Scouting are what David really gets excited about, and this year David is a first year Webelo, the final rank before going on to Boy Scouts. With Dad as one of his leaders, David's gung ho, especially when it comes to camping. He took in a couple of camps this summer, and when John was in Europe, David went to the Webelos Woods Scout campout and camped pretty autonomously -- at least without immediate family advice. He loved it all -- especially his own cooking!

John (Yes, there's a new hobby this year)

I'm sure you all were waiting with baited breath to know (NOT IF, BUT WHAT) John's latest money and time consuming hobby would be this year. Well, I don't think you would guess this one, and no, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. It's now collecting Scout patches. Whoa! Now that's exciting! you say. And if you ever thought Scouting was cheap, THINK AGAIN!! First, it started in the person-to-person trading-mode, then that got a bit slow, so it went to the trading-via-the-Internet. Then that got slow, so it went to Internet buying. There's more... At first it was "this" patch goal, then with that reached, it was the "next" patch goal, and so on. Now, there are "trade-o-rees." First, they were local, and then they became regional. Then came auctions - local, regional, and it goes on... You can guess where this all leads, and I don't think the sky is the limit. But, stay tuned next year. I may be surprised with you.

Besides the patch collecting, John is still Scoutmaster of Troop 869 and spends many hours dedicated to Scouting. He's doing double duty in Cubs too, as he has taken over as den leader for David's 4th grade Webelos den. Besides scoutmastering and den leading, he has taught the ham radio merit badge several times at Winter Camp at Camp Strake and plans to do it this year after Christmas, too. This is just another way to go camping, which, I believe, is his favorite activity. He is especially excited, if not more so than the kids, about finally going to Philmont next summer and doing the 50-mile mountain trek. After that, he'll rest up a couple weeks and take off for the National Jamboree where he'll teach the ham radio merit badge. It turns out that Philmont, the Jamboree and Winter Camp take exactly 22 days vacation days -- his entire allotment. It's a good thing for his health that he doesn't have to chose between some major anniversary and Scouting.

Moi - For Christmas, I'd like more hours in the day, and for aliens to appear and offer to clean my house

After many years, I finally realized that I didn't have time for everything. In response to this enlightenment, I gave up a few things, but added others, so I'm about where I started. For one, I gave up going aerobics at the gym, and instead got a Nordic Track. While watching TV, so as not to feel the pain or get bored, I'm up to about 10 minutes a session. Although it really was a lot of fun, I also passed the leading of David's Webelos den to the resident Scoutmaster, mainly because Texas camping's not my bag. I still put in lots of time in Scouting at the den, pack and troop levels. For the last 3 years, I've chaired the Boy Scout Troop Garage Sale. It's a hoot! You never know what you get to sell, and it's amazing what people will buy!! At Armand Bayou, I have presented the ACS "Kids in Chemistry" science units the last couple years. You really get some great lines, like the definition of hard water. (Ice!!!) This past May, I went to Oregon to help celebrate my folks' 50th wedding anniversary and it was indeed a grand and beautiful celebration. Next summer, the highlight will be a 3-week trip to Ireland. I'll take David and Robert along and we'll visit and tour with my sister Theresa and her family who are there for about 3 years. I guess you'll get the full report next year, but, needless to say, we are all very excited.


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


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