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Family Christmas picture in front of the tree at church.

Doug waiting for candle wax to melt in double boiler.

Kristi and Keith as they appeared at the Intuit Holiday Party.

We were the Advent family for one service, lighting four candles on the Sunday before Christmas.

The combined choruses on Christmas Eve, with Doug second from the left and Brad farthest right.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a Dancer.

The cousins and a few adults wager chocolate coins on the dradle.

Doug, Keith, and Brad await next game at Moonlight Beach the day after Christmas.

Brad on his birthday: wearing cheesehead and playing Madden 2006, both birthday presents.

Brad at dinner on his birthday, taken surreptitiously with secret parent shoe camera.

December 2005

Doug has learned to whistle.  That such a simple pleasure can provide so many hours of self-entertainment is one of life’s lesser mysteries.  Last month he discovered he could whistle by sucking air in through puckered lips.  His compositions were monotonic.  This month, however, he made the quantum leap of reversing the air flow, thus allowing intriguing new variations. This opened grand new vistas of random note combinations, every single one of which he seems determined to explore.  “Whenever you can do something new you’re kind of obsessed with it. Like when I used to crack my knuckles,” he quite cogently explains.  While the constant high pitched noise can sometimes grate on parents and older brothers alike, the bright side is we always know exactly where he is in the house.

Brad’s annoying habit de jour (de month?) is his speech pattern, or mock speech, or made up words.  While we continue to fight the battle against teen and pre-teen slang in the home, Brad has performed a flanking manuever: he has added mock-words and cutesy mispronunciation to speech. Danther, Kuhl.

These aren’t Grinch-like complaints, mind you: they are but historical notes to the boys’ development, recorded for archival purposes only.  Still, any thing that smacks of criticism or complaint is inappropriate during the Christmas season (I’ve got 11 other months of the year to mete out judgment, thank you), so let’s move on.

Both boys had band concerts this month. Brad is very down on band this year. Apparently the end of middle school is where kids have to decide if they want to make band their primary peer group. Kids in the band are called (somewhat derisively) “bandos.” (That’s a lot better than what Keith’s high school called the band kids; modesty prevents it from being printed on a family web site. Kristi doesn’t know what derogatory term was applied to the band clique at her high school because she was in the clique.) In an effort to understand the intricacies of middle school social strata, Keith asked Brad whether the change from last year was the students in band, how he viewed band, or how students not in band viewed kids in the band. “Yes,” he answered. So things are changing quickly on the cusp of entering high school. If this is indeed Brad’s last year in band, as he predicts, then this will have been his last Christmas concert.


It remains to be seen how many Christmas concerts Doug has in him, but so far he is enjoying band. And certainly band is cool in fifth grade, without any negative social stigma.  On the other hand, he hasn't been asked to practice as much as Brad does, or even as much as he used to practice piano.

Doug’s big activity at school this month is candle making. Just like three years ago when Brad had him, Doug’s teacher Mr. Bueker has the kids make candles for Christmas presents in December. And Doug, just as Brad was 3 years ago, is entirely consumed with the idea, wanting to make candles for every relative he had, to the point of staying after school and even going to school a couple of Saturday mornings to get extra candle making time.

Christmas activities followed the traditional schedule:

Friday night we joined the extended San Diego family for La Pastorela (at the Old Globe in Balboa Park), a fun and highly interactive theater experience. It is a Mexican folkloric retelling of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds (now cast as Mexican immigrants) traveling to Belen (Bethlehem) to view the miracle. While the plot is always the same, the dialog is filled every year with topical San Diego references.  Unfortunately every year city politics provides ample fodder. And the Border Patrol is invariably the metaphor used for Satan’s minions attempting to stop the migrants from reaching their destination.

Christmas Eve morning Kristi and Keith took advantage of the clear weather and bicycled to the beach. Thinking this was an excellent example of why we live in San Diego, we thought we should call someone not in San Diego and gloat. Of all the names in Keith’s cell phone, his brother Ken in Minneapolis was deemed most deserving, so we called and left a message bragging about biking to the beach and standing barefoot in the sand on the day before Christmas. (He didn’t pick up, he told us later, because he was outside knocking icicles from his roof.)
That afternoon we go to early church service, in which the boys always participate in to varying degrees (so we have to be there by 2:30 pm). Afterwards it was on to Kristi’s brother’s wife’s sister’s house for the 19th annual Christmas Eve potluck dinner and Talent Show. Brad has MC’d the last 3 or 4, and does a fine job extemporizing between acts. Brad played his trumpet and Doug played his trombone. Then it’s home by 11 to put the kids to bed, stuff the stockings, move presents from all the hiding places to under the tree, and discover the lie that is “some assembly required.”
Christmas morning as Kristi stumbled downstairs to start coffee, she thought we had left the Christmas tree lights on all night, until she found Brad, already up, lighting candles and generally preparing for the family to wake and join him. We had just enough time to go through stockings and one present each before it was off to church.  The theme to Doug’s Christmas was bike paraphernalia (for the upcoming Ride Across California) and volleyball equipment.
The day after Christmas was a day to escape the house. We went for another bike ride, this time insisting that Doug join us. (Come January 1st, he will officially be in training and be expected to bike with us more often.) That afternoon, as a family of four in the car, we headed west until we came to the ocean, then headed north up Highway 101 for awhile until we got to Moonlight beach in Encinitas. There we played a little volleyball (Sherwood males against another family), and threw the football and Frisbee for a couple of hours.
We’ve managed to whittle Brad’s birthday celebration down to two days. (He turned 14 on December 29th.) The church youth group, normally idle between Christmas and New Years, likes to gather for a movie in honor of Brad’s birthday. The following night Brad took his friends Matt and Jacob (aka Nitty) to Islands for dinner, then to King Kong, then to nearly all night video games and a sleep over at our house. Giving the right amount of space to a 14 year old is a tricky thing. The first night Kristi, Keith, and Doug stuck around the movie theater, seeing a different movie simultaneously. The second night we had separate booths for dinner (but close enough that we could see them and, more importantly, close enough so they could see us seeing them), but cut the boys completely loose, leavign them alone at the movie theater.
At least we thought we had Brad’s birthday trimmed to two days until Matt’s dad came and picked the boys up Friday morning and invited Brad 1) to the San Diego Car Show at the convention center, and 2) to go snowboarding in Big Bear on Saturday, Dec 31.
Brad enjoyed his initial snowboarding experience, returning New Year’s Eve exhausted and wet, but happy. Like Doug’s trip with his friends to Knotts Berry Farm last month, no pictures exist to memorialize this monumental event. Honestly, how do these other families have fun on these trips without stopping every 10 minutes to pose for a picture?
Doug the family game player reminded us of our New Years Eve tradition (started last year) of playing a family game to while away the hours until midnight. We played Hoopla, a game that includes charades and pictionary, among others. Brad was ticking us all off by declaring himself “the king” every time he either quickly guessed someone else's card, or someone guessed his card quickly due to his clues.  We were so ticked off, in fact, that we conspired against Brad, and his next turn, when had to get us to guess "ferris wheel" via charades, we played dumb: for well over five minutes we guessed everything but roller coaster, getting Brad increasingly frustrated and more and more vocal about what it was he was trying to act out. At one point he observed, "It's like you guys are trying not to get it!" (to which Kristi replied, "Oh wheely?")
And with that, let's give Kristi the last word this month, and this year.

They read it

Brad: Lord of the Nutcracker Men, Lawrence
Keith: Desert Solitaire, Abbey; 1776, McCollough
Doug: You Be the Jury, ; At the Crossing Places, Crossley-Holland

They said it

Keith: "Doug, are these your dirty socks on the family room table?" Doug: "No, but I would be happy to collect them and put them in the laundry." A surprised father, sure that a milestone had been reached in empathy and responsibility: "Doug, thank you, that is exactly the kind of helpful attitude that we really need around here." Doug: "And then I’ll go upstairs and scold Brad about leaving his dirty clothes in the family room."

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Holiday Band Concerts Brad and Doug both had band concerts this month.

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Text and pictures copyright 2005 by Keith Sherwood.  All rights, writes, and rites reserved.