Holidays 2018

If you’re offended that many Americans avoid speaking of Christmas in polite conversation, try the photo below instead.

If you’re offended by the presumption that there’s only one religious tradition in America, try the photo above instead.

Dear Family, Friends, and Benevolent Strangers,

We hope this year-end report finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying a restful and restorative season with loved ones. Back by popular demand are photo captions in a super-squinty font and tons of awkward hyphenations–thanks, WordPress! We space this out a bit by using Large Capitalized Headings in a bold blue color. Are they all Posed As Questions? You betcha! Let’s get right to it!

What’s New at School?

The boys both advanced to new classrooms at the Montessori school this year. Zach is now in 1st grade, along with the 2nd and 3rd graders in his Lower Elementary class. Zach has the same wonderful teacher that Max had for the last three years and he’s made a great adjustment.

This isn’t the best place to wait for the school bus, but it is a good place to take a picture with less chance of being hit by any motor vehicles.

Max is now in 4th grade, along with the 5th and 6th graders in his Upper Elementary class. Max was dismayed to learn that he will now have regular homework and occasional tests, but he’s managed to cope. He’s learning good work habits, taking responsibility for remembering and completing his homework, and loves his teachers. He especially enjoys math (solving equations using algebra) and reading (discussing classic and contemporary literature), as illustrated below.

I really miss the days when the most difficult problem in my life was solving for x.

Book titles removed for privacy reasons. Actual colors may be even more exciting.

What Else Has Max Been Up To?

Max earned his red belt in karate this year. Next up: black belt! He’s continuing weapons training (with enthusiasm) and sparring (with great reluctance).

Max looks more genuinely fierce when wielding his nunchuks at the dojo than when I threaten not to leave his room until he gives me an acceptably fierce look for the holiday letter.

In addition to being a voracious reader and dangerous with at least three weapons, Max enjoys soccer, chess, computer games, foosball, bowling, and inventing imaginative new games. Like his dad, he loves throwing things (darts, archery), and is highly competitive.

Even though he hasn’t been trained on this weapon by senseis at the dojo, he’s getting pretty good at it. Note that “senseis” is an acceptable plural of sensei. It may be about as dubious as “octopuses”, but these are commonly used, folks. Note to the note: No, the correct form isn’t “octopi”, either, it’s from Greek not Latin. Answer to implied trivia question in the notes: It’s “octopodes”. I kid you not, you can look it up. I’ve owned more than one octopus and I had no idea.

How About Zach?

Zach learned to ride a bike, participated in soccer through the township, joined the chess club at school, and enjoys reading funny stories. His major passion right now is art. He enjoys a weekly art lesson and spends most of his free time creating highly detailed Pokemon-style or playing cards, along with many other kinds of drawings.

For Hannukah this year, Zach got a new bike, and you can see on his face just how happy he is to have already begun the process of outgrowing it.

This is not an authentic Pokemon card. It’s way awesomer!

Zach loves football. His impressive memory for football rules, game scores, and statistics will prepare him well to play fantasy football one day. This year, Zach helped his dad make game picks for the season-long bet with his grandfather. They expect to win the bet before this weekend is over, in fact.

Zach was over the moon when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII. Knowing how happy this made him helped to cheer up his dad and his grandfather as they watched their team, the Patriots, lose.

That same dad and grandfather prefer to remember the previous year’s Super Bowl (LII – I = LI), which is the greatest game of all time. That’s not just an opinion: NFL Films released a program called “Top 10 Greatest Games of All Time” and guess what came in at #1? It’s on YouTube, check it out!

Don’t the Boys Ever Do Stuff Together?

Why yes they do! They can be found most weekend mornings deep in a game of Monopoly, Life, chess, or some elaborate new game they’ve created involving Pokemon cards, stuffed animals, and/or a catapult. Zach began Folkshul (our Jewish secular humanist Hebrew school*) this year, so they now both attend on Sunday mornings. And of course they love spending time after school, and on days off, with Janet (our Jewish secular humanist child-care worker*). I can’t find any good pictures of these activities, but shown below are a few others that I’m trying to shoehorn into this holiday letter.

*Yes, that’s a thing.

Be careful with that rabbit, Lennie.

I’ve ordered a monster and now I shall eat it!

What is Zach doing out there? Doesn’t he want to live in our Lego house now?

You can’t see me, I’m completely hidden in this bush. Green jacket, too, this is foolproof!

Throughout most of the year, Zach has been dressed as Charizard (which Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokemon encyclopedia, describes as “a draconic, bipedal Pokemon”) and Max has been dressed as a ninja (for which Bulbapedia has 29 entries that I invite you to browse at your leisure). On Halloween, the boys dressed in something pretty ordinary, I can’t recall what. I feel like I should fact-check the details on this item, but I’m pressed for time. You can probably figure things out from the photos below.

Over the summer, the boys spent lots of time at the pool. Max attended a summer camp and Zach went to a series of art workshops. They topped last year’s records for the summer reading program at the library, which is no small feat. Each boy spent several days vacationing in Maryland with grandparents (John’s mom and dad). Our family gathered with Ayelet’s side of the family (all 16 of us!) at a beautiful house in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland.

Much of our summer fun took place in the state best known for these crabs that are much less blue, and much more tasty, once you’ve steamed them with some Old Bay seasoning.

Anything Going on With Ayelet or John?

Ayelet is continuing her clinical research as well as graduate and undergraduate teaching and advising. This year she was invited to write a paper for the premier clinical psychology review journal, invited to give an address at a major psychology conference, and recruited to serve on several college-level committees — all suggesting that, without quite realizing it, she has transitioned from junior faculty member to mid-career psychologist.

This is the University of Pennsylvania Stephen A. Levin Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building. Look closely and you can see the warm glow inside caused by Ayelet doing clinical research, teaching, or advising.

Ayelet didn’t write this paper, but she was cited inside! I’m sure her paper will be equally attractive when it appears in an upcoming issue of this journal.

Ayelet has finally found a form of exercise she can tolerate. Zach is also a big fan of Zumba and is the #1 collaborator and cheerleader for mom’s exercise routine.

Photo from the “Virtuous Dance Center”, which awards offsetting karma credits for those who’ve danced the Lambada. This photo comes from their “Guide to Safe Zumba Dancing at Home”. It’s mostly about having really high ceilings.

John remains employed, writing things for people and saying things to other people on a regularly scheduled basis. He also continues to exercise and hasn’t missed a day of walking for more than 2,500 days, which combines for a total of more than 25,000 miles and 7 Excel worksheets. When moving at a slower pace, he enjoys his aquarium and guitar hobbies as much as his time and household budget allow.

This year ends with the same number of guitars as last year, but John built three of the guitars shown here in 2018 (center, far left, and far right). That’s not the sun just off camera in the upper right, just an old halogen lamp.

On December 5, Ayelet and John celebrated 25 years together. They’ve come a long way since that first date, waiting for the MBTA Route 70 bus to take them from Central Square, Waltham to the Ground Round!

Travel Tip: If you stay on that bus all the way to Central Square, Cambridge, not only would you miss the complementary popcorn at the Ground Round, but also you’d increase your risk of being stabbed or shot by an amount considered nontrivial by most life insurance professionals.

Sadly, the restaurant at this location in 1993 has closed. Popcorn remains available wherever popcorn is sold.

Any Final Thoughts?

We hope that you and your loved ones have either a joyful holiday season or a very merry Christmas–your choice!–and a wonderful new year!

We hope this image communicates a general desire for good things in the year ahead without offending anyone at all. Cheers!

Front row, from taller to shorter: Max, Zach. Back row, from man to woman: John, Ayelet. Not shown: Silvia, our rose queen cichlid (that’s a fish).

Silvia, our rose queen cichlid. Not shown: Ruscio family (those are people).