Monday, December 26, 2016

Another year down!

We’ve survived 2016 (well, nearly there anyway)! Here’s an update from the four of us.

In terms of the day to day, it’s admittedly not been a great year of cultivating grown-up hobbies, but we’ve gotten out around town on the weekends with friends, usually friends with kids, to parks and pubs (if it’s not raining) or museums and pubs (if it is). Most of the museums in Oxford are free, and we’re making full use of them. This year we’ve enjoyed teaching Tor to ride a bike, celebrating a slew of children’s birthdays, participating in church events, and attending school concerts and plays for both boys.

Tor is nearly six and in the UK equivalent of first grade, Year 1 (which kids go into a year younger than in the US). He has complicated, ever-changing relationships with the kids at school, but mostly they stay positive and he’s looking forward to his sixth birthday party at the local bowling alley with several little buddies. His biggest challenge this year has been to focus on the more curriculum-based kind of learning he’s being asked to do, compared to the play-based nature of last year’s class. This year he learned how to swim 5 meters without help, began reading simple books, discovered Pokemon trading cards, and played out countless imaginary scenarios with family and friends (most frequently with Col, and lately involving an enormous stuffed bear). Here is Tor telling us about learning a Christmas song at school (with a cameo by Col eating a soft-boiled egg).

Col keeps a sunny disposition most of the time, though he’s started to assert his own desires much more this year and can cross over to the dark side in the blink of an eye when disputing whose turn it is with a toy, who gets to lead the way into preschool, or where he’ll sit at dinnertime. After about a year of halfhearted effort, he finally conquered toilet-training shortly after his third birthday (October 15)—just in time to switch to a new preschool on January 4, so fingers crossed there’s no backsliding in the strange environment. He worships his big brother and does his best to imitate whatever Tor does, for better or worse. He sings the ABCs loudly and proudly but can’t yet recognize many individual letters. When we put him to bed, he asks for “a big cuddle…now a little cuddle…now a big cuddle” and will carry on that way until we say “last time.” He’s speaking in full sentences though the pronunciation is still touch and go. Here he is singing “Feliz Navidad” (practicing for his Christmas concert). The non-traditional line he throws in there is, “Now in English!” 

Elissa continued at Oxford University Press this year, still overseeing the UK team in charge of outsourcing academic book production, which grew to seven people in 2016, and also heading up a new team of four responsible for manufacturing all of the new academic books coming out of the UK office (about 1600 titles a year). It’s been a year filled with new things to learn and chances to think about better ways to get from submitted manuscripts all the way through to finished products!

Lars worked this year to further establish his lab and research group, which now consists of three Master's students, two PhD students, and one postdoc. Two years of work culminated in the first experiments on Lars's new rock deformation apparatus, squishing rocks at 2500 degrees F. Expect pictures next year of all sorts of tortured rocks!

This year we said goodbye to our much-loved Dendro, who joined our family in 2001. We were fortunate to be able to visit him at Karen and Andy’s shortly before he passed. He had a good long life, and we’ll see him on the other side where we’re confident he’s now able to catch Frisbees and chase cows once again.

A highlight of the year was a couple of family trips. In February we headed to Austria for a week, where we met up with Norm and Charmaine and Tor’s godparents, Josh and April. Charmaine hung out with Col while the rest of us skied, including Tor, who spent five days in the ski school and came out eager to return next year. Then in August we took two and a half weeks to visit family on the West Coast, including Lars’s cousin Morgan’s wedding; a relaxing time with Andy, Karen, Tim, Caitlin, and Mormor; and an epic Disneyland trip with Norm and Charmaine—the kids were the perfect age to feel the Disney magic!

Merry Christmas to all and a joyous New Year!