Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Yeah, yeah, our cards say our Xmas letter will be here- and it will - around January 1.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

 2013 Annual Review

I’ve never been very superstitious about the number 13, but this year has made a believer out of me. 2013 - so long, farewell, and don’t let the door hit your rear on the way out. But it really started in December 2012….

December: One of our young cats, Rajah, developed a urinary tract blockage- on a Friday night of course. Emergency vet - $2000. And we failed to get  picture of him with his “poodle” cut- they had to shave his legs and part of his tail for IV lines. Since he needed to be watched for any other stones, he went to Wisconsin with us for Xmas. He didn’t yowl the entire way - just for 2/3rds of the trip. We arrived to find my mom in the hospital with flu. Two days later my dad could barely breathe and after 5 hours with him in the urgent care center and then emergency room, he was admitted. Meanwhile the hospital was trying to release my mom, because they couldn’t get a rehab center to take her due to her flu diagnosis, but eventually they did find a bed for her. Did I mention I had left my wallet in a McDonalds in Pennsylvania on the trip? We did get it back, fully intact, on our way back, but for the trip I had no license and all the cash for the trip was spending quality time in the McDonald’s safe.

January At 5pm on Jan. 5, our cat Rain, the smartest, bravest  cat I’ve ever met, was in the house. At 8:30 she had vanished into thin air. We tore the house apart, put up posters, walked the neighborhood…nothing. 

We love you Rain, wherever you are
Jan 20 – Lela’s 9th birthday. We had dinner out and went to Chris’s (Jamie’s mom) for cake since she was not well enough to come out with us. 

Lela's friends party and Family Day (January 25) went on but subdued as you can imagine

Jan 24th Chris passed away.  Chris’ burial on the 30th was private, just the family, at the Pinelawn National military cemetery in the same site as her late husband, Nick Pines. We were all doing OK until the Marine guard presented the flag, “on behalf of a grateful nation.” (Chris was a woman Marine in WWII teaching aircraft and battleship silhouette recognition.) There was an open house that afternoon for friends. Chris was a wonderful mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, great cook, and kept a warm and inviting home... but was not defined just by that... she had a career that she loved, traveled, read, wrote and was published, kept her mind sharp. She was kind and generous. She was active and contributed to her community in many ways. She did get her final wish, to go peacefully in her sleep in her own home. I am so grateful that the girls got to know and love her and be loved ... and are be old enough to remember the remarkable grace and strength that she exemplified.

February was not too bad – other than being February. Life went on - the girls both had Girls Scouts, and ice skating,  Lian TaeKwonDo, and  Lela basketball, me thousands of volunteers activities.  We had Blizzard Nemo, but after Sandy that seemed tame. I was one of 25 recipients of the Science Museum of Long Islands achievement awards. We went to our Families with Children from China Lunar New Year Party, but had to leave early as Lela started to come down with the flu. Lela and friends performed in the school talent show, and it was much better run this year - we were not there until after 11 pm.Jamie turned fifty something

That's a back walkover Lela is doing
A trip to our favorite museum, Nat Hist, or the American Museum of Natural History

March We went to the circus, which has become an annual event. Lian got her green belt promotion in TaeKwonDo. Lian turned 8, and had a slumber party. There were supposed to only be 6 girls sleeping over and several others whose parents had responded would not be sleeping over, and a few friends of Lela’s. Once the “going home” girls found out there was a sleep over, they called parents and begged. Net result- 15 little girls doing mani-pedi’s on each other, decorating cupcakes, and consuming anything with sugar and not much else  - wired to the ceiling and getting up at all hours of the night. NEVER AGAIN!!!! Jamie got laid off- the small marketing research company that he had worked for the last 6 years was barely treading water and began to close down.  


Easter Baskets

April Since he had time to do some household chores, Jamie decided to clear out some brush and weed trees in the yard - and accidentally chain-sawed his leg. The girls and I were out, but luckily our neighbor ran over, put Jamie in his car and took him to emergency. It could have been worse- while he took a chunk out of his shinbone, he didn’t break the bone or hit an artery or take out a lot of muscle. But he was laid up for almost a month, I became his personal chauffeur, and he had to be wheeled into church for Chris’ memorial service. Lela started softball for the season, and the girls had a packed schedule of birthday parties and play dates. I received an award from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, which Jamie could not attend due to his leg. Lela and some good friends accompanied me into NYC to receive the award.  http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d10ed0d99d826b068525735900400c2a/2e5e212d26cb2c4785257b520055cd32!OpenDocument

May It was a wet month. School field day was cancelled because while it was not unseasonably blistering as it usually manages to be, it was mildly soggy. I proctored the exam portion of the LI Envirothon, being the only judge who knew something about cows and range management (thanks to 4-H waaay back in WI.) Memorial Day we marched in the local parade, girls and Jamie (back on his feet) with the Girl Scouts, me with Community Chest, and I was fired from my job of 13 years as Facility Manager with the church by the newish rector. Yep it just gets better and better.

Puddle jumping s a favorite activity

June HarborFest is a big event in town, I manned the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee booth and Lela and friends performed at the open stage. End of school events came thick and fast- class parties, class picnics, concerts – Lela had started violin this year, so we were treated (and I use that term lightly) to sawing strings. Field day was re-scheduled and was a pleasant day for a change, but Lela’s last softball game got rained out. Lian saw Dr. Sachs to start the process that will lead to her bone graft, probably next summer.  I was the docent for multiple tours of Manhasset Bay sponsored by the Port Washington Library Nautical Advisory Council – talking about the Bay is something I can do for an indefinite period of time, but 2 two-hour tours back to back is taxing even for me. 
    Recycled boat race

  Field Day
Spring Concert
Last day of school

July The girls went to the Little Dragons Chinese culture camp out east and stayed (without us) with friends for the week of the camp. Jamie played with the Community Summer Band once again, four concerts in the month of July. Jamie and Lela paddle in the annual Kayak Run, though Lela decided to drop out when she got to my check in station - still she had paddled over a mile. The girls started swim lessons with good friends. 

I lead a group of young volunteers in cleaning the stream at Stannards Brook, a property that the Port Washington Parks Conservancy (which I chair) has been instrumental in getting restored

August Lian’s cleft team sponsored a fishing trip on a party boat for fluke. They are sneaky creatures. I think they stole more bait than the combined weight of the 3 keepers that were caught – that was for the whole boat, not just us. We took our usual trip out to WI. Sister Carrie and I spent a chunk of that time visiting nursing homes to pick one for our mom, when we weren’t hacking (sans chainsaw) at the burgeoning undergrowth that was once my mom’s garden. I turned even older. Jamie got hired to a new job- a small marketing research firm in Port. We went camping with friends at Little Pond Campground up in the Catskills. It’s a beautiful spot and we were in the remote (walk-in) sites – but I’d brought a hand truck so while it was not fun it wasn’t a nightmare. Jamie came up the next day (yep I got to set up camp by myself – and with the help of our friends- but we hadn’t put up the tent for 2 years and had not put the instructions in the bag. It was interesting. ) We took a “moderate 2.9 mile” hike. They failed to mention it was poorly marked and ¾ of a mile vertical climb to start. Once we were up it was nice though. The hike we thought would take 2-3 hours took 5, but I never go anywhere without food and beverage. A black bear was terrorizing the campground while we were there, raiding coolers, tents and cars, but it preferred the more densely populated drive in sites.  We did see bear scat but no bear even though the girls were agog at the idea. Bobby the dog camped and hiked too on his 4” legs. Check out my Pinterest board of our trip, http://www.pinterest.com/jwpines/little-pond-campground-ny/

 Roaring waterfall in Ohio at the Cuyahoga National Park on the way to WI- this is just after torrential rainfall and heavy flooding

  The girls' favorite hotel
  Little Pond Campground, Andes NY

Bobby the camper

  It rained just about every afternoon, as we were getting ready to cook dinner
September School was off to a late start even though Labor Day came on the 1st, because the week would have only had two school days due to the Jewish holidays, so they punted to the 9th. Buying school supplies at random in August seemed to have been a good strategy, since our district can’t get it together to send out supply lists until the 3rd week in August when there’s not much left. Lian decided she wanted a new look before school started so she had a major haircut – enough to donate 9” to Pantene’s Great Lengths which makes free wigs that are distributed by the American Cancer Society. I volunteered to be a class parent for Lela this year – Lian next year. So far it’s not too taxing.  Lian’s 6th Family Day came around, hard to believe it’s been that long. We had the annual International Beach Clean up, 18th year for me to Captain the event. The Bay is a lot cleaner, we work hard to make 100 pounds of debris these day, down from tons.

Beach Clean Up

October The job Jamie had started didn’t work out – it was a start-up and everyone there was 20 years younger. Chris’ house sold the first weekend it was on the market and closed in mid-November, the end of an era – and leaving multiple boxes of stuff from her house stacked up in ours.  For the kids, all things Halloween took center stage. Lela decided she wanted to be Katara, a character from the Nick series Avatar the last Airbender. Yes there is a costume for that, snapped up from Party City. Lian was more conventional with a mermaid ensemble. We had a warm up event, Halloween on Main St. where the kids trick or treated the shops – which started last year in the aftermath of Sandy when many neighborhoods were unsafe with power lines and trees strewn about.  I did the Halloween party for Lela’s class, oops class parents do have to do something. I scoured the online craft sites and came up with six activity stations, and decided to go easy on the snacks since sugar overload was now only hours away, pretzels, juice, gluten and nut free cupcakes baked by another mom, and yes some candy. The girls went out with friends in our neighborhood, but by 7:30 it had started to drizzle so everyone crammed into our tiny living room to swap candy. A good time was had by all.

At the school Halloween parade, which was nearly canceled due to post Sandy Hook security concerns
We went to the Rise of the Jack O' Lanterns a fun, but freezing event with thousands of carved and decorated pumpkins


November Kicked off with a Rainbow Loom party for FCC that Denise S. and I put together. We had about 40 people show up –in case you have been under a rock, it’s the latest kids’ craze- making jewelry and other items from small rubber bands. Following in her sister’s footstep Lela decided (finally ) to cut and donate some of her long, long hair. It’s still past the middle of her back. 

We volunteered at Garvies Point Museum for the Native American Feast. I am the native foods maven and the girls are now old enough to help out too.  Tuesday the 23rd was the annual interfaith thanksgiving service, re-scheduled from Wednesday to avoid landing on the first night of Chanukah, or Thanksgivekah. This year we went down to North Carolina, Raleigh/Durham area, for Turkey Day. Jamie’s mom came from there and we met all the Rose relatives.  We were scheduled to depart the Wednesday at 5am, as a soggy Nor’easter roared up the east coast. We actually made it out the door at 6:15 but that was not early enough, between T’Day escape traffic and pouring rain. We made ‘Jersey about 2 hours later and then it wasn’t too bad until we got around DC – and then crawled in the mass of traffic, doing about 40 miles in 2 hours. We got into Raleigh over 12 hours after we had left, just in time for dinner – an 8 hour trip according to Google maps, not.  Jamie and I took a late night trip to the Evil Empire to get my new camera, Target, Costco and Amazon had let me down. Since we were out of town, Jamie and Lela signed up to run in a 5K Turkey trot down in NC to continue the tradition, and we barely made the start time of 8am in the sunny but freezing morning. I will simply refer to all of Jamie’s relatives as cousins as I don’t have a genealogy chart handy. We stayed with cousin Johnny and his wife Edna and had Thanksgiving at their daughter Kelly’s house with her family, husband James and children Kirby (girl) and Liam (boy) so now we had two James and Lian and Liam. Jamie’s sister, Christy, had already arrived via plane, and was whipping up some traditional Pines T’Day treats like corn pudding. Too much food was eaten by all, including not only the traditional turkey but a slow-cooked, pulled pork, yum. 

Cousins bonding over a mutual love of My Little Pony Equestria Girls

The next morning I awoke very, very early with severe indigestion, so after eating a pile of Tums decided, “I’m up, might as well go Black Friday shopping.” Thank goodness for GPS because otherwise I would have had no idea where I was going. Arrived back at the house in time for a quick shower and then it was off to Southern Pines to Cousin Rob’s house for an oyster roast. It’s about an hour and a half drive through the piney woods. He has an interesting mid-century modernist  house, which looks to my eye to be the Carolinas version of the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie school. Two shallow pits had been dug in the yard, one to burn down the red oak into coals and the other for the coals over which a piece of sheet metal, topped by oysters and then a wet gunny sack to keep them moist, so they steam in the shell.  There was a sheet of plywood with cutouts over two trash cans for convenient shucking. Rob’s sister, Merrill, Johnny, Edna, Kelly and gang, Jamie’s brother Kirby and wife Marie were there, so now there were two Kirbys, in addition to about two dozen of Rob and Meryl’s friends. The kids had a great time playing in the big rope hammock while the adults swigged quantities of Milk Punch, Ginger cocktails and beer along with the oysters and country ham and biscuits. We arrived back in Raleigh in time to take Johnny and Edna out for a dinner of  BBQ- east North Carolina BBQ that is, which is served with  a spicy vinegar dressing, not to mention hush puppies, slaw and potato salad made with pickle relish. Yes even more food. We departed for home Saturday about 10am, and as I write this the sun has set and we are on a two lane highway somewhere in Maryland, having abandoned  Hwy 95 around Fredricksburg for local roads. The GPS says we will be home at 9:29, I’m guessing more like midnight. (10:45 – we split the difference)

There's a long story behind this mule

Most of the relatives, L to R, Kelly, Merrill, James holding Liam, Johnny, Kirby and Rob
Impromptu concert

December We will head out to WI and hope for better times. But first - the Annual Cleft Team Holiday Party at the Long Island Children's Museum

First Santa of the season

Craft table

An indoor sandbox, what could be better

Native American drum. Lela is studying the Iroquis in 4th grade

Fun with mirrors
Lela and I went into the city to meet with some Facebook friends

Pet update:

After Rain had been gone for 5 months we had pretty much given up hope. Then I got a call from a lady who had seen our poster at her vet, and she said she thought Rain was coming to her patio to eat- but she lives quite a ways from us. I went to see the cat and I was sure it was Rain. She was trapped but once we got her home I realized while this cat was nearly identical it was not Rain- this cat had never had her jaw broken. She was already fairly social, so we named her Stormy and she joined the pack. I hope that someone did that same thing for Rain that we did for Stormy. We miss you Rain.


Rain - you can see how a mistake could be made
We are pretty sure that Tiny is Tiger’s brother- and we’ve seen him around the neighborhood for the last few years, and he seemed social, so I trapped him to see if it would work out. He loves people, sleeps on top of us, demands petting - but he does not like the other cats except BigEyes and especially dislikes his brother – and to express his displeasure he would periodically pee on our bed - while we were sleeping. Nothing like having to change the bed at 3am. That seems to have subsided thankfully or Tiny was going to lose his happy home. He is really Tiny, weighing in at about 5 pounds. 


And last came Lilly. Lilly appeared this fall and was very friendly, but unclipped (neutered ferals have their ear tip clipped to identify that they have been “done.” ) We bagged her but had missed the free spay clinic by days and it’s only once a month. Lilly had such a relaxed personality that we turned her loose to mingle. It was then that I noticed as she scampered up the stairs ahead of me that Lilly had little fuzzy balls, so Lilly became Willy. Willy and Tiger have become best buds and stage mock attacks all over the house.

The three newbies

So now we have (in age order) BigEyes, Patch, Stormy, Tiny, Tiger, Simba, Rajah and Willy. I saw a magnetic cat that I think may end up in my Xmas stocking – “One cat away from Crazy Cat Lady.”
Most of the crew, from L to R, Simba licking brother Rajah, Willy, Stormy, Tiny and BigEyes. Tiger was downstairs and Patch was under the bed

Three Deaf Crayfish doesn’t have quite the ring of 3 blind mice, but that’s who has taken up residence in a fish tank in the girls’ room, courtesy of a 4th grade science project. (Crayfish don’t have ears, they “hear” by feeling vibrations.) They are named Fuzzy Boo, Buddy, and Killer. Killer is the boy.  Update- Fuzzy Boo’s claw tips have turned red so he’s a boy too. Buddy molted and they stuffed the molted exoskeleton into the bottom of the plastic aquarium plant, weird. Next spring they go in the backyard pond, but it was already too cold. Oh, in addition to the 40 odd goldfish in the pond, a bullfrog arrived this year, two originally, but the feral cats that haunt our back yard got one. How it got there is a mystery since we are in a nearly urban part of suburbia.

Bobby the dog is a traveling dog- he went to Wisconsin and camping but didn’t come to NC with us, but was housed by our friends, the Massingills. He was last seen terrorizing Aldo, their enormous Italian Spinoni, whose head is bigger than Bobby’s entire body. He continues to be cute, perky and annoying – we have not been able to break his begging habit. 

 My old camera died early this year and I’ve been using the girls’ cameras, not top quality. I just got a new one Thanksgiving eve, a Canon Powershot 50 (long story involving having to resort to the Evil Empire) so the quality and quantity improve at that point.Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the beauty before you - and shoot it.

Love that new 50x zoom

And I've also taken up Genealogy. I found out that my 6x Great-grandmother was from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island. That two of my great-great-great grandmother's sisters took wagon trains west to Oregon in 1852 only two years after they has arrived in Wisconsin from Wales. Yep, Wisconsin, and only about 40 miles from where my parents house is now. G-G-G grandma Grace followed them west in 1879, after farming in WI for 30 years. Thanks to my mom who had started to research and gave me her papers, my "cousin" Dorothy who has done the Wilson research and Cousin Bill who worked on the Armstrongs. My tree so far - still lots to enter and lots to figure out, http://www.wikitree.com/genealogy/Wilson-Family-Tree-15257  

Our tiny, pet and fur infested house is cozy and warm, the fridge full, we are reasonably healthy (and about to get our way too expensive COBRA health coverage switched to Obamacare, yippee.), and we are together.  So a New Years’ (non-denominational) blessing. May you have a better year than we did! May you have family and good friends to support you in times of trial, like we did. May you find the beauty and blessing in what you have.  A Healthy, Happy and Hopeful New Year to one and all.

Mother's Day

Last spring while riding the train home from the city where I had just handed in the last of Lian's paperwork, I had nothing to do since I had gone through all my reading material while waiting at the Chinese Embassy. I got out a notepad and this poem started to flow and practically wrote itself. Adoption can be bittersweet as there is no gain without a loss.

Lian on left in yellow

Lian on left in yellow
about 14 months, with her friend Hailey

Lian at 6 months

Lian at 6 months
Who could resist that smile?

Lian at 4 months

Lian at 4 months
Right after surgery for her lip

Sha'anxi Province Map

Sha'anxi Province Map
HanZhong in lower left

China Map

China Map
Sha'anxi Province in center