And welcome! This will be the first Loveoirs post of the last year of Earth’s existence, or the first Loveoirs post in Earth’s glorious new dawning, or it will be just another New Year’s Loveoirs post, like all the rest, but better. In any case we’d love to see the planet undergo a geomagnetic reversal because it just sounds cool. Happy New Year!
If you remember our post from last year, it was marked by super elation because Miles was born and super stress because we had moved across the U.S., started new jobs, started preschool, and didn’t sleep much. This year was much more stable for us. Can we get an amen? How about a word up?
We’re not sure when sleep sanity finally returned to our household, but 2011 was much better in this regard. We had at least twenty or so nights of no wakeups, that is, nights when both boys slept through the whole night. Of course, those were interspersed with 345 nights of illness, bad dreams, accidents, and crying for the hell of it (Harry and Kathleen, not the boys), but we appreciated the sleep nights immensely and look forward to maybe forty or so this year.
In April we moved from our paper walled Queen Anne ice box to a lovely rental house near Green Lake. It has one story (thank goodness, no more children tumbling down the stairs). We have a backyard with trees, great light, and lots of room for flowers, vegetables, and little bulldozers. During the warmer months, the boys practically lived in the backyard. We enjoy having friends over, walking and jogging around the lake, going for coffee at Zoka, and donuts at Mighty-O. Our neighbors have been very welcoming. In short, it feels like a place we could stay for a long time and this has been the biggest and most positive change for us.
Harry worked from home the whole year. That was amazing and hard and amazing and great and hard for all of us, for all of the reasons you might expect. He started work later in the day, ended earlier, and spent flexible time with the family. Knowing now that this works for us, it would be hard to go back to a full time job with a commute and all of the little extra bits that come with working for someone else. Of course, there were many times we wished we had the security of a full-time job and its benefits, but working a flexible job, having the family together, and being free to call the shots have made it worth every penny we might have given up.
Kathleen journeyed from pure survival mode to moments of thriving in her roles this year. She has regained most of her sense of taste and some of her sense of smell, which has helped dramatically with increased desire to pursue some of her passions, like cooking and gardening. And with a toddler in diapers, it’s not the worst thing in the world to not be able to smell well. She has felt luxuriously spoiled with our recently acquired gym membership at the YMCA that has childcare the boys love and allows her to exercise during the day however she’d like. Swimming has been incredibly cathartic and totally worth dealing with the colorful experiences of a gym locker room. Kathleen remains torn about whether or not she’ll return to a typical speech-pathology role somewhere, but is thankful daily for a degree that has helped her tremendously with parenting.
Charlie turned four this year and started his second year of preschool, this time at the Seattle Children’s Theater. He’s loved it so far and it really plays to some of his strengths. He’s riding a bike now and has gone around Green Lake a few times (~3 miles or ~4.8 km). He loves and despises his brother depending on the day and the activity, but they’re really great pals.
Miles started walking and talking this year and has become quite rambunctious. In the fall the boys invented a game of dropping themselves over the back of the couch onto little play furniture and sometimes just onto the floor. Miles enjoys this as much as Charlie. He tries out new words and phrases just about every day. He follows his brother around like a puppy sometimes. He’s totally charming and he knows it. And given his current size, we’re pretty sure our food budget is going to eclipse our college savings in ten years.
So, 2011 was great for us. We’re happy, getting healthier, getting wiser, and getting more sleep. We hope the start of the new year finds you well. As is our tradition, we’ve included some of our favorites below. Enjoy!
Kathleen: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was the most heart-wrenching, gory and beautiful story I’ve read in a long time. I almost stopped reading after the twins’ birth story, had to take a several day break, and returned to start at a different chapter before going back to it, but I’m glad I regained my composure and read every word. Half way through I didn’t want to do anything but read. And the ending. I loved the ending.
I’m also very pleased to be a new owner of a Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. As I grow in my knowledge of cooking and baking, I’m longing for the scientific understanding of why certain things work and others don’t. I am also thrilled to have 2,000 recipes that have been tested so thoroughly! With this book in hand and a new skillet, I had the confidence to try pan-searing scallops that were served with browned lemon butter and butternut squash ravioli. Yum.
Harry: The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book 1 – The Phenomenon of Life, by Christopher Alexander. In it, Alexander identifies and measures the properties that create life in the built world, from leaves to art to buildings to neighborhoods and beyond. I’m grateful to have these new eyes as I experience the world now. I’ve read the first two volumes and I hope to read the other two this year.
Kathleen: I have really enjoyed Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, and The Autumn Film this year. Not just new stuff, but the albums that I keep returning to because they speak to my soul. I have also loved the precious few minutes that I’ve had to play piano all by myself. Granted, I’m half-watching the boys to make sure the dissonant, non-piano noises I’m hearing aren’t resulting in either of their serious harm, but it’s happening. Sometimes I even get through an entire song.
Harry: You can listen to my favorites below. This past year the themes were nostalgia, introspection, and the reinvented 1980s, except for the last song in the list, in which one group traveled to the year 2025 and returned with its dystopian hip hop. My favorite was “Beth/Rest” by Bon Iver.
[mp3-jplayer tracks="Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes@06-Helplessness-Blues.mp3, Like the Wheel - The Tallest Man On Earth@03-Like-the-Wheel.mp3, Up in Flames - Coldplay@11-Up-in-Flames.mp3, Beth/Rest - Bon Iver@10-Beth_Rest.mp3, Peace on the Rise - Chad VanGaalen@02-Peace-on-the-Rise.mp3, I Am Dead (CFCF Remix) - Jori Hulkkonen@I-Am-Dead-CFCF-Remix.mp3, Before and After Life - CFCF@01-Before-and-After-Light.mp3, ccore - Jacob firstname.lastname@example.org, An Echo from the Hosts That Profess Infinitum - Shabazz Palaces@02-An-Echo-from-the-Hosts-That-Profess-Infinitum.mp3"]
Charlie: “Crocodile Dock. Huey Lewis & the News. U2. The fireflies song. And 5-4-3-2-1 Blast Off.”
[mp3-jplayer tracks="Faith (Hebrews 11:1) from Crocodile Dock - Jay Stocker@06-Faith-Hebrews-11.mp3, Doin' It All (For My Baby) - Huey Lewis & The News@03-Doin-It-All-For-My-Baby.mp3, Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of - U2@02-Stuck-In-A-Moment-You-Cant-Get-Out-Of.mp3, Fireflies - Owl City@06-Fireflies.mp3, Rocketship Run - Laurie Berkner@13-Rocketship-Run.mp3"]
Miles: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He sings this a lot.
Kathleen: My only steps into a theater were for a viewing of 50/50 with Angie. I absolutely loved it. I laughed so hard that I cried, cried so hard that I was snotty and doing the ugly cry. I looked hideous at the movie’s end, but it was worth it. Had I been at home without reservation, I would’ve blown through an entire box of tissues. At home I enjoyed The Trip, Kings of Pastry, Outsourced, The Secret of Kells, Exit Through the Gift Shop and Pressure Cooker. Next year I will certainly tell you how I loved The King’s Speech and other grand movies that came out because they will finally be on Netflix streaming!
Harry:The Secret of Kells, Pressure Cooker, The Trip, Lenny, Exit Through the Gift Shop, At Close Range, Sling Blade, Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, Who Is Harry Nilsson?, Mesrine: Part I and Part II, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (the Swedish versions of those; I haven’t seen the David Fincher version). Yes, I still loves me some movies.
Kathleen: The games that make my heart melt usually don’t involve me. They’re the games resulting in the best giggles I’ve ever heard. Recently, Miles and Charlie spent at least ten minutes running around the house laughing like crazy while they took turns dragging a sheet and pulling on it. At Thanksgiving all those under ten laughed hysterically at Harry’s silliness. The games I love to instigate are based on whatever’s going on at the moment that can be made fun. Sometimes it’s when one of the boys makes a weird noise and we all keep trying to make it. Other times it’s me dancing in the kitchen with a colander on my head while I feed them a meal.
Harry: Being silly with Charlie and Miles. Whatever we’re doing, there’s always an alternate, ridiculous way of doing it that makes them laugh. They’re also big fans of my “going down the elevator behind the kitchen counter” sight gag (thanks, Mike Myers). I also enjoyed Glitch, Real Racing, and Machinarium.
Miles: Climbing on the couch. Basketball.
Moments of Beauty and Inspiration
Kathleen: There is too much to share here, so I’m going to pick the first five that come to mind. Fasten your seat belt, I’m about to bullet:
1) Harry and I choosing to fix up this rental has provided unexpected fun for our marriage, often while we’re covered in paint or dirt. Being in a free-standing home for the first time since our immaculate and basically brand new Colorado home led to some unexpected shock and grief for me because this place was far from clean and pristine. I was inspired by Harry’s encouragement and our subsequent devotion to make our shelter a place of beauty, however we could. If the carpet has to be stained and teal, let the walls be clean. If the grass has to stay put and be moss-filled, let the weeds be pulled and eventually replaced with vegetables and flowers and mulch. Bit by bit, it becomes more lovely and life-giving. It was hard at first to think about pouring so much time and energy into a rental, but it makes sense why it’s been such a gift to us to do so. It is our home.
2) Charlie learning to ride his bike without pedals made me tear up because I know what a huge mental feat it was for him (much more so than the physical challenge). He had taken a few falls, was scared and wanted to give up. When Harry and I told him how many times we fell and that we still sometimes fall, and let him know that he had to decide to tell his body that it was worth a few bumps and bruises, he decided to go for it and the look on his face was amazing.
3) Miles learned to walk this year. And talk. And run. And throw balls. And build train tracks. The joy Miles expresses with any new experience is so contagious I always end up smiling with him.
4) A very tall, lanky, tattered homeless man wearing a feathered hat walked to the front of our church sanctuary during a morning service with a big bunch of flowers and a toilet plunger in hand. The flowers looked like he picked them out of people’s gardens on his way in: loose, mismatching, and hand-picked. Everyone was standing and singing, Harry and I were in the balcony and could see him walk up to the front stage and lay everything down, retrieving the plunger from the midst of the flowers and putting it in his back pocket. He then sat awkwardly and raised his arms to worship, seemingly singing a different song because his mouth wasn’t moving to the same rhythms. A very well-kept older woman left her pew unnoticed but returned to the stage with a large pitcher of water. She leaned in towards the man, I assume to ask him permission, and put the flowers in the water. I completely lost it, overwhelmed by the love of that moment.
5) So many simple things from nature: sprouting seeds, pulled weeds, turtles on the logs at Green Lake, flavor grenade pluots and other divine stone fruit, changing leaves, harbor seals, sea stars, waves…
Harry: I have loved watching our boys grow into playmates. It’s taken them a long time and only recently did they start playing really well together, but for the most part they enjoy each other’s company. They giggle a lot together. They hug goodnight. It’s amazing watching two beings who came from my DNA ask to embrace each other without prompting.
I’m fascinated by Charlie’s paintings: the subjects he chooses, how he depicts them, his use of color and size, the whole bit.
Miles has a fantastic smile and sense of humor. If you need cheering up in 2012, we rent him out at $26/hour, up from $19 last year. Still a great bargain!
I’m inspired by Kathleen’s love of cooking and her blossoming as a chef. I’ve reached the point where I prefer her food to just about anything, save the hoity-toity places we go on special occasions. And even with some of those places, I prefer her meals. I tag along just so we can say hoity-toity once in a while.
Charlie: “I remember you [Papa] blowing the biggest bubble. And we went to the beach. I remember moving into our new house. It has more space than our old house.”
Miles: “This doesn’t count as beautiful, per se, but I was moved by the zeal of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, regardless of their tactics or effectiveness.” [Miles is a realist.]
Kathleen: We enjoyed a pretty incredible year, including moving back to our favorite neighborhood (close to our first home). It was also filled with lots of high-quality family time, my brother getting a job based out of a Seattle that led to many great experiences together and the beginning of us really knowing each other as friends, loads of fun play dates, evenings with dear friends and bellyaching laughter, a few lovely getaways and the amazing day-to-day pleasure of having Harry work from home. But my heart jumped the highest when my dear friend Kristine, our Siberia teammate and first Seattle friend, called to let us know that her family’s return to Seattle was finally happening. And it beat fastest when two dear friends went into labor early, one with twins. Thankfully, all the teeny-tiny babies are thriving.
Harry: I really enjoyed having Dave, Kathleen’s brother, stay with us for a couple weeks after his duties on his ship were finished. I think all of us had a great time. We shared lots of great talk, drinks, and meals, including a dream night at Canlis for Dave, Kathleen, and me on my birthday.
Charlie: “I remember trying to cheer up girls at the gym that we went to today. I really like the little bug that I got for Christmas. One of my favorite things about Uncle Dave visiting is that I was sleeping and then I woke up and I saw Uncle Dave sleeping there right in front of my eyes!”
Kathleen: All of last year’s sites still remain favorites, but I add Ashley Rodriguez’s Not Without Salt to the mix. This is now my go-to blog for very unhealthy but delicious desserts or anything chocolate related. (Try her chocolate chip cookie recipe. I dare you.) I can’t wait to make more of her recipes since those I’ve made have all been incredible. I also really love Ashley’s photography and writing. If you haven’t figured it out by now, if I’m not on email or Facebook, I pretty much spend my online time reading food blogs or watching food related shows.
Charlie: PBS Kids.
Miles: Arts & Letters Daily.
Favorite or Funniest Thing Miles Says
Kathleen: It’s pretty hilarious that any time we talk about the Seattle Children’s Theatre (which is very frequent because it’s where Charlie attends preschool), Miles says “monorail!” This sometimes refers to the monorail, but usually refers to the Space Needle, which remains strongly mislabeled despite months of proper modeling. He also says monorail to anybody who talks to him on the phone. I think he’s figured out how cute it is and is getting a lot of mileage from it. I also love that he used to say “dakuum” all the time (for vacuum, which referred to anything with a motor and wheels). He wanted us to make Tinkertoy vacuums and he’d drive them, fly them or vacuum with them. Lastly, I love that he answers yes with a strong, quick “heh” and yells “ai ai ai” when he’s mad about something.
Harry: What’s not to like? His word for yes is “huh” with a big nod of the head. He tries hard to say basketball because he received a small hoop for Christmas. His best friend is a little stuffed animal called Tiger and he often says, “Tiger, where ARE you?” in a kind of sing-song voice. When he’s giving you something he says “he go” (Here you go), also in a high-pitched, sing-song voice. His typical greeting to someone new is to say “monowaya” (monorail). But I have no idea why he chooses that as a greeting over, say, “coffee” or “backyard” or “hi” or something less arbitrary.
Charlie: “Here are some of his faces that I think are funny [Charlie now shows us some of his funny faces]. My favorite face to make Miles laugh is this.”
Kathleen: Our camera’s new lens is quickly becoming a favorite! I also probably love my new immersion blender/mini food processor more than one should love an appliance.
Harry: I bought an iPad for my business. In its spare time iPad likes to double as a music recording studio, a game machine, a movie theater, a magazine and book container, and several other nouns.
Miles: Train tracks. Tinkertoys. Marble tracks. Basketball hoop.
Plans for 2012
Kathleen: I have a huge stack of books waiting for me at the downtown library, mostly about education, learning and child development. Reading these will be my primary focus during my free time for the next few months as we contemplate what Charlie will do for kindergarten. I have signed up for an indoor sprint triathlon in April and plan on doing an outdoor one in late summer. This means I will be exercising much more regularly than I do now or I will be immobile in early April. I plan on becoming a better gardener, cook, baker and photographer. With lots of help I will grow in grace, patience and my ability to savor the moment instead of worry about the future or pursue perfection. And I will take at least one really big risk that scares me silly and makes me rely on my faith. I am really hoping to not move homes this year. Or the next, for that matter.
Harry: This year I plan to grow the business with a couple products of my own. For learning, I’m still completely engrossed in non-fiction and this is unlikely to change this year. There’s so much to know! Sitting on my table right now are Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Philosophical Investigations, Unix Power Tools, The Unix Programming Environment, Concrete Mathematics, and The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. If I get through them all by next year, it will be a miracle. Finally, I plan to ride in the Seattle to Portland bike race in July. Wish me luck!
Charlie: “It does make me really excited if we would go to the Pacific Science Center and I could use the digger. And we could go and see those crazy bugs that we have now that run around on the track.”
Miles: “raf.” [Giraffe]
That’s a Wrap
Finally, here are some of our favorite pictures from 2011.
Miles, Charlie, Kathleen, and Harry