Dear Friends and Family,
Another year has screamed past at lightning speed. It seems so with four very active guys, including John, that this has been the busiest year ever. As the kids get older, the projects get bigger and more involved and the activities more numerous. They certainly keep us hopping. This is our life now.
News from Scout Central
Since Scouting is such a big part of life here in this family, there's lots of news. Everyone's involved. John's been a leader 8 years, since Richard was in first grade, and has been the Scoutmaster for the Boy Scout Troop for over 3 years. Richard's now a Life Scout and has been industriously working toward Eagle. Early in the year he planned and constructed his Eagle project, a wooden play gym for little kids at the church where the troop meets. He has only a few requirements left to earn this very special rank. Robert finished his Cub Scout career in March by earning all the Webelos activity pins. His passage to Boy Scouts was marked in a very special and moving Arrow of Light ceremony conducted by a Mescalero Apache indian by campfire on Armand Bayou. Since March, Robert's advanced to First Class and has chalked up 16 merit badges. David's working on his Bear this year and I'm his den leader. That's five for five.
One of the biggest and the best part of Scouting is camping and John, Richard and Robert trek off camping with the Scout Troop about once a month in search of high adventure. This year they had some great weekends canoeing, rappelling, and experiencing life on board the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier docked in Corpus Christi. In the summer, Richard and Robert took in a couple weeks at Camp Strake, north of Houston, as mavericks, and then John joined them and the Troop when they went to Horseshoe Bend at El Rancho Cima near San Marcos in the Texas hill country. At summer camp, they have a ton of fun, as well as earn merit badges. Richard and Robert did a lot of water sports such as motor boating and water skiing. Richard got BSA lifeguard, while Robert earned horsemanship, among others. Even David got in some Scout camping with John for a few days at Camp Strake. David was a fierce competitor in archery and BB guns, his favorite. David also was able to go to Camp Bayshore, a Scout day camp very close by at Armand Bayou. Richard and Robert went too, but as den chiefs. Richard, Robert and John will have their final camping fling of the year after Christmas at Camp Strake for Winter camp, where John will teach an amateur radio license and merit badge course. They always have a great time and, usually, the weather isn't too cold.
Far Out! West Vacation
In July, we found a lone week with no scout camps scheduled, so decided to vacation far from the heat of Houston. After planning this trip for over a year and half, we finally made it to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. We flew into Jackson Hole and spent nine fantastic days in the parks seeing zillions of critters and awesome sights. We were even so lucky as to see a bear in Yellowstone, which is more rare now than years earlier. Buffalo were everywhere as were herds of elk. We saw coyotes, big horn sheep, deer, antelope, prairie dogs, pika, moose and squirrels. The geysers in Yellowstone were really fantastic and interesting. Some of the landscape looked prehistoric and, at times, you could just imagine dinosaurs roaming the area. For a break from the hiking trails, we rented a boat with an outboard motor and sped around Lake Yellowstone. Driving the boat full throttle was a big hit and everyone got to take a turn at the wheel. We stayed in quaint cabins in the parks and that was very relaxing. To conclude the days of scenic amazement, we took in the evening nature programs given by the park rangers.
In Grand Teton, we did more hiking, with our favorite being one around Lake Jenny to see Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. We also went on a couple trail rides on horseback, one of which included a delicious outdoor-cooked, all-you-could-eat breakfast. (The kids were happy, but my sympathy to the horses on the way back). Dave, 8 at the time, was just old enough to ride his own horse, and would have been quite mad if he would have had to ride out in some old wagon. John found himself pretty sore after our first ride and opted to hike while the boys and I took another ride. One of the highlights of the trip was a white water rafting trip down the Snake River. It was soooo exciting. For most of the white water, Richard and David were in front of the raft "hanging face" in the rapids. The snow-fed water was cold, but the adrenaline rush kept us all very warm. The weather was perfect the entire trip and we all had such a great time, we were sorry we had to leave this bit of God's country. We'd come back in a heart beat and highly recommend these parks, as well as getting cabin reservations very early - up to 2 years in advance!
Kid News - Now They're in Three Schools and We're in Three PTAs
This year, Richard "BK" (Big Kid) turned 14 and we all began another phase of our life as Richard became a freshman and entered HIGH SCHOOL - Clear Lake HS. This school is HUGE, with 3200 students! Even getting to class through the crowded halls is a challenge. Richard continues with trumpet and made it into the marching band of about 200 strong. He loves it and it has been the story of his life this fall. The band started marching on July 31, in the hottest part of the Houston summer, and marched every school day, and some weekends to get ready for the November competitions. This is some serious business -- like Texas high school football, no kidding! Academically, Richard is doing very well and seems to be enjoying school. Besides school and Scouts, Richard is also continuing to play the piano and we are all enjoying listening to him.
Robert "Peppy" turned 12 this Halloween and also entered a new school, Space Center Intermediate, as a 6th grader. He's also doing well in school and has taken up percussion with the school band. He loves the drums, although we haven't yet broken down and purchased him a trap set. With Richard, we could have our own drum and bugle corps. Robert also continues with piano and attacks it with gusto.
David - "Mr. D" or "The Foof" - turned 9 this September and is in third grade at Armand Bayou Elementary. He's in the Alpha program for gifted students and is doing well. He's also a serious competitor on the playground in any sort of sports. He loves to fish and ride his bike. He's also playing piano, but doesn't like to count.
On the Go-Go Mom...or Good Bye Housework, Hello Science Fair Projects
With four boys in the house, the mother's work is never done. I am behind in my dusting, for sure. I'm still working full time at Exxon which chews up a good part of the day. Then it's home with the boys. Mondays = 3 piano lessons, Richard's trumpet lesson, and Scout Leader's meeting, Tuesday = Boy Scouts, Wednesday = Robert's drum lesson, Thursday = Scout Pack meeting or some other meeting (on occasion, it's free), Friday = watch Richard in the Clear Lake HS band play at their football game, Saturday = miscellaneous kid events, cleanup, shopping, resting (a couple minutes with coffee), Sunday = Church, CCE (Sunday School for the Robert and David), read the paper (sometimes), lead David's Cub Scout meeting in the afternoon, and Richard's CCE in the evening.
This is my sixth year as a Den Leader (formerly called Den Mother) in Scouts. After taking Robert through Tigers, Wolves and Bears, (1st, 2nd and 3rd grades), I've done the same for David and he's now working on his Bear rank and World Conservation badge. This will probably be my swan song for den leading, leaving Webelos and all the camping to the guys.
What's left? Well, I do have a membership at the local gym, but I haven't been too regular this year. I need to get in shape because we plan to take a family ski trip next March at spring break. We'll go with some of the Scout families to Angel Fire in northern New Mexico. Being in this part of Texas, we don't get much snow and the kids are really dying to play in it. They are also anxious to try out skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding. Of course, they will have to build snowmen, too, since it's never been possible here and I've been on this guilt trip for years. So I'll be getting in shape shopping at those after-Christmas sales for ski wear and warm clothes. When that's all done and I do get a break, I would like to redecorate the house and put our snapshots in archival albums.
John's New Real and Virtual Toys
Every year it's something - a new hobby, a new toy, whatever keeps 'em happy. Well this is the year of the Urban Assault Vehicle, aka the "Scout Mobile", more commonly known as the custom van. It's several feet taller and longer than the minivan, so it can hold more camp gear. It's white with teal blue interior, neither color of which goes with camp dirt, but it has a TV and VCR, perfect for those long trips to camp with adolescent boys. John loves it, and I have yet to take it to the grocery store.
John is still technology manager of the butyl rubber product development group at Exxon. Although the job pays the bills, John finds that it sure does get in the way of having full-time fun - playing, camping, hobbying, etc. With all the Scout involvement, John was honored as the district's Outstanding Scoutmaster for 1994. Besides Scouting and work, John continues to be an active ham radio operator and advocate. Recently the Clear Lake Amateur Radio Club (CLARC) made a wormhole link through packet radio to the Internet. "Surfing" the Internet via the radio link was going to be much too slow, so John went ahead and signed up directly. So now he's off in cyberspace and I may never see him again. But if you're there too, or visit occasionally, send us a message! (email@example.com)
Well, we hope this finds you well and in good spirits. We wish you and yours peace at Christmas, now and throughout the New Year. And of course, if you're ever headed toward the Lone Star State, y'all give us a shout!