Mother is a Verb

Mother is a Verb

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

 In 2010 our family logged enough frequent flier miles to fund our very own airline, affectionately named for our friends at TSA, Don’t Touch My Junk Air.   

While some families’ mission over the holidays is to make a difference in their community, we decided to make a difference in Cozumel, Mexico. Concerned about their over-abundance of rum and tequila products, we descended upon the cheapest all-inclusive we could find to help correct the situation. In the spirit of true humanitarianism, we stooped so far as to insist that not-quite-18-year-old Kev, do his part, along with slightly less illegal Kris & Will.

Returning to a legal drinking age of 21, plus an accepted cocktail hour that was not only, literally an hour, but 10 hours into the day, rather than two, was quite a shock to five of our systems.

Personally, I spent the rest of January in detox, while trying to keep track of all the user names, passwords, email addresses, and screen names I’ve acquired since launching MidChix. My aliases include 475Gretch, Ginger27, gretchen27, Javamama27, gretchen174, ChiefChick, ChiefChick27, Georgie27, and Macaroni. Plus, occasionally, Sam.

For a short month, February sure packed in its share of miles. I flew to Philly to help Kris celebrate legitimate legalness, and Nicki flew to Hawaii to lose her driver’s permit (more on this later). Then Kris flew home for Villanova’s winter break, which began a week after Cam’s winter break ended.

February turned to March only a week before Will’s spring break started, coincidentally, the same week of Kevin’s school trip to Peru. In another somewhat questionable coincidence, possibly engineered by those sneaky TSA agents or probably Kevin himself, his flight home arrived at DIA @ an hour after Cam, Nicki, and I departed for 5 days of playing tourist with mom in NYC. Besides seeing Will perform, we tackled Central Park, Radio City, and a very intimate security line for the Ellis Island Ferry.  When Nicki, a new theatre major, begged off so she could get an infusion of Broadway, I’m not sure if my trepidation was over her going to a show solo, or that the show, Next To Normal, is about a mother and her worsening mental illness!

On the last day of March, I finally found the strength to endure an afternoon at the Denver Department of Motor Vehicles in order to replace Nicki’s lost permit. Unfortunately for Phil, there is nothing to do while waiting at the DMV... except surf the internet on your iPhone. So, after spending the requisite 10 minutes playing Your Team (see Christmas 2007), Nic and I began checking out dogs at the Denver Dumb Friends League. (In case any of you don’t actually know us well enough to know that Phil long ago said “absolutely not” to a well as a fifth child, moving from Elm Street, buying a bay house,  and getting a trampoline*, well let’s just say you better go back and start from the beginning).

 So, lo and behold, that’s how we found Augie, formerly named Dilbert by some dog rescue dude with a sense of humor. Nicki and I hot-footed it over to the DDFL as soon as she had that flattering permit photo taken … and twenty-four hours later, appropriately, April Fools' Day, Augie was a part of the family.

A dog was not exactly the 18th birthday present that kynophobic Kevin was hoping for. Luckily his acceptance letter to Claremont McKenna arrived the following week and he began his transformation into the-glass-is-half-full kind of guy. Unfortunately, his glass seems to be half -full on a fairly regular basis these days...

The youngest of five, Cam has been the first kid we took to PG-13 before hitting double digits, the first on Facebook at age 10, the first to have a cell phone at 11, and the first to get stitches, after Augie took issue with the proximity of his face. Despite blood pouring down his chin, Cam's main concern was keeping Augie. So keep him we did, and spent a good chunk of money diagnosing his "possession aggression" and his aversion to training.

Come late May, Kevin's graduation was bittersweet. We missed Pop-pop and Grandpa, who both would've been bursting with pride; fortunately, Lollie and Grandma were on hand for the festivities and, even better, with both being on East Coast time, cocktail hour started promptly at 5 (which isn't such a bad thing when three matriarchs are sharing a kitchen...).

A few weeks later my sanity took a road trip along with Nicki, Cam and Augie in a remake of the Summer of '04.  It was totally worth three solid days crammed into the Highlander when an elderly woman in our Chicago hotel mistook Cam for Nicki's daughter!  I'm not sure which of them get the biggest Good Sport Award...

Driving cross-country was a breeze, given the destination was a two and a half week long sleep-away camp where I dumped the kids in the rain before high-tailing it down to the bayhouse for five, count 'em,  five days of complete freedom... except for Augie, the doggie.  Then Phil arrived for a  second honeymoon of sorts, (though he still insists I didn't live up to the contract he'd drafted, and I'd signed, during the dog negotiations).

I had to giggle a couple of weeks later when he got his first taste of hospital gown indignity after the doc decided his appendix had to go. This photo was sweet payback for all those labors when he kept telling me to " just relax, honey".

Kris threatened to forego her own future labor after working the delivery unit at Jefferson Hospital. To add insult to injury, after seeing where babies actually come from, as a summer nanny, she also saw what happens when they get old enough to talk back! She's considering requesting a tubal ligation in lieu of a graduation gift!

California dreamin' took on new meaning in August, when we dropped Kev at his new school. Phil was racked by feelings of insane jealousy as he stared longingly at the perfectly manicured fields, the signs announcing upcoming keg parties, and the slew of cute co-eds, moving in down the hall of the dorm.  I spent the rest of the trip trying to console him by bringing up memories of our own college years in frigid Williamstown... to no avail.

In keeping with the year's frequent flier theme, the day after we arrived home, I headed back East to see Will perform at Radio City.  It was a memorable trip in more ways than one.  Although it's nearly 4 months since my wallet was stolen, Phil still won't let me head over to the DMV to replace my license for fear I'll come back with another dog!

In September, he did make an exception for 16 year-old Nicki...praise the lord. She is now the designated driver to Denver School of the Arts. With Cam finally at the same school, I now spend mornings at home in my jammies! Tho' I must admit to missing some of those early morning car rides with Nic.  She taught me plenty, including how to cut back on word waste...  no kid. she is into abbrevs . having a convo with her is worse than coit interrupt. soon i may be texting my blog...except if i do it via my iphone it'll just b garble. i knew i had to stick with typing on a real keyboard after it changed "forgive me" to "f$ck me".

October was marked by an eventful fall break with Kris home, and  Phils' brother and wife here for their first visit in years.  We decided to fly Kev in as a surprise, and soon found ourselves hosting a family beer pong tournament on the patio. When I suggested that he may have had one too many and Kev good-naturedly protested, I gently reminded him that he'd had his arm around me for nearly half an hour.

November found us back in NY to see Will perform again; I won't be including a link to this it was our first exposure to... well,  full exposure as one scene of Take Me Out is performed in a locker room, and in the nude! In typical fashion, Phil gave Will a pretty powerful pep talk before the show "Now don't forget, this is a reflection on me too!" To which Will replied " No worries, Dad...I'll do you proud."

December descended with travel vengeance!  Kris headed to El Paso for a week of midwifery training, Nicki wowed them at State Thespian Convention, scoring her the dubious honor of a June trip to Lincoln, NE for Nationals, and  Cam and I flew back East to be with Mom, as we marked a year since saying goodbye to my Dad.

Then, December 16th, Kris and her long-time beau, Jeff, starred in their very own romantic comedy in Cancun. Down on one knee, Jeff glanced over to see why Kris was laughing, and realized that the rose petals he'd paid the Mexican concierge to arrange on the beach, spelled out Married Me?

Phil tried to top Kris' engagement news by turning 50 last week.  He was a good sport, and has set a high bar for me to follow three months from today.  Being the competitive types that we are, we've decided to best all of our friends having 50th birthday celebrations this year and are planning a 100 years party sometime soon.  (all of my blog followers will be invited, so do us all a favor and  subscribe via email by clicking here! pressure, no sirree...)

*Santa pulled off The Miracle on Franklin Street  when (s)he scored a Craig's List trampoline purchase, disassembly, move, and reassembly surprise on Christmas Eve, with the help of two pretty-handy-considering-being-right-brained elves.

Cameron's face made it all worth it, not to mention Phil's...

We want to wish you all a healthy, happy, and humor-filled  2011...and remind you: don't hide weapons in your underwear next time you fly...

P.S. Reminder for all you gals that are "mid" chix ... please humor me and sign up  here!  With @1700 members
across 50 states and 13 countries, MidChix has recently relaunched as an online community for women who aren't just social, but also socially conscious! We urge you to check us out, sign yourself up, and spread the word to your friends.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2009

In the first month of ’09, my true love refused me… start-up funds for my new company.
Throwing caution to the wind, I pointed to him, declared “You’re It!” and cashed in my life insurance. The fact that the policy would have paid some poor slob over a hundred thousand dollars a year to do what I have done for free the past twenty was mildly offensive…but not nearly as insulting as the pittance with which it rewarded me for surviving all of those hazardous years! Nevertheless, it was a start.

In the second month of ’09, my true love shook with jealousy… when my attention was devoted solely to my brand new company.
Imagine finding out that not only are you not the father of the new baby, but she turns out to be the most demanding yet! To top it off, home-cooked meals are a dim memory, clean clothes a virtual fantasy, and the mention of date night produces a guffaw.

In the third month of ’09, my true love prevented me…from hurting some admissions grunt for rejecting strumming, crooning, high school bound Nicki.
When the anticipated acceptance letter from Denver School of the Arts was nixed due to a last minute decision to cancel the guitar program, I had what some might refer to as a Phil moment (minus the vein). Thus it was quickly decided that Nic would make a damn good double bass player. And I wonder what the hell I was thinking as we load the 6 foot instrument in the back of my Highlander every ^$%&%^# morning.

In the fourth month of ’09, my true love made a plea… “end the eight consecutive weeks of school break revelry”.
Not one to be dissuaded by the lack of a vacation fund, Cam ponied up scads of allowance savings (i.e. about forty two bucks). With a little help from Mom, and a lot more help from Dad, he & I spent his spring break road tripping from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to Connecticut to New York to Pennsylvania. As a last hurrah, we treated my brothers’ family to the pleasure of Cam’s company while I unselfishly sacrificed one final weekend of parental bonding for the demands of my annual Girls’ Weekend. We did our best to challenge the world Bananagrams record, while supporting dairy and grape markets from France to California.
In the fifth month of ’09, my true love was set free… when graduation ended our indentured relationship with day school, Graland Country.
After 27 total tuition years, we were rewarded with…a six second mention at the graduation ceremonies. Oh yeah, and an alumni giving appeal that arrived in the mail the following week. But in an effort to ensure us that at least he was still pursuing higher education, Cam informed Phil that he had learned a new “bad word” tho’ he wasn’t sure what it meant. Even Phil was stumped on how to explain to a nine-year old a simple vocabulary word spelled “H-O-R”.

In the sixth month of ’09 my true love waved good-bye to me, as we headed east for summer
A month alone, (or actually not so alone) in the bay house gave Kristen the laughable notion that the house belongs to her. She had a rude awakening when the rest of us descended in late June, and challenged her and Jeff to play Housus Interruptus. Of course now that she is practically a full-fledged nurse, she or one of our family members have suffered from a rash of life-threatening illnesses ranging from a latent TIA to an enlarged (and possibly ready to rupture) spleen, severe hypoglycemia, as well as her personal favorite-a big ole neck goiter.

In the seventh month of ’09 my true love had good company…when Kevin stayed home, supported Subway, the Rockies, and generously worked for free.
Kev began the college exploration process by kindly informing us that it really wasn’t any of our business where he applied to school. Hmm, I guess he has a full-ride scholarship he’s going to surprise us with. Meanwhile, Will earned enough money directing to cover nearly all of the ATM fees he incurred during his freshman year in NYC. Apparently, in New York, they charge you a fee not only to withdraw money, but also to just fantasize about withdrawing money. And for those of you who don’t know Will, he has a very rich fantasy life…

In the eighth month of ’09 my true love bared his chest quite gleefully…after months of lifting he could show off - finally.
After devoting numerous workouts to preparing his body for the display opportunities of daily boat excursions around the bay, Phil was bitterly disappointed to find that the more money spent making a boat sea-worthy, the less sea-worthy it was. By the time said boat was repaired, it was time to dry-dock for the winter…and pay our next installment on the maintenance-free guarantee.

In the ninth month of ’09, my true love sighed with ecstasy…when MidChix launched and he thought I just might make a little mon-ey.
Then I found that the only thing being a stay-at-home mom had in common with being a stay-at-home mom with a full-time job was that they both paid nothing. Nevertheless, I love my new status as Chief Chick, and have learned more than I ever imagined (including the fact that people who get paid the most, usually do the least). While I have chalked it up to “live and learn”, my personal banker, Phil, continues to be saddled with “live and lend”.

In the tenth month of ’09, my true love gave to me… a trip to the local room of Emergency.
When October found Phil doing ten pull-ups too many, and ending up in the ER, we realized that life had become far too stressful and that it was time for a major change. After much in depth discussion, we made the joint decision to switch to screw-top wine. Things have improved dramatically since then. Though Phil was a bit put out when cleaning out the fridge he discovered my emergency supply of two snack size containers of chardonnay hidden behind the Joint Juice.

In the eleventh month of ’09, my true love gave to me…the dubious but highly-prized present of a super-duper squeaky clean alley.
November got off to a good start when Daylight Savings ended and we got an extra hour sleep. Things continued on a positive path as membership on MidChix grew, Kevin was accepted at Tulane, and Phil had multiple opportunities to use his commercial grade leaf-blower. Then, I began a ten-day East Coast trip at my parents’ house, and that was the luckiest thing I ever did. After complications from surgery the following week, my Dad was moved into ICU on Thanksgiving, and we lost him ten days later.

It may seem contradictory to say that the past two weeks have been both the worst and best of my life. There are few things worse than losing a loved one. But having the opportunity to hold his hand, tell him I loved him, and honor his memory is the greatest privilege that I can imagine.

In twelfth month of ’09, our family sends its wishes for warmth, love, health and peace to you and your families. With love, Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki & Cam

PS. If you are 40+ and female, please join (if you do it before 12/31, you could win a free flight on Frontier). If you don’t do it, you could be removed from the Christmas Letter List. ☺

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas 2008

Detroit and Wall Street aren’t the only places begging for a bailout this year. The Seefried clan is right there with them! We have first dibs on Change too.

Sure, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised…it’s not like Kris hasn’t changed her mind before…4 years ago her room was plastered with posters of half-dressed rap singers. Now she’s in love with a Westpointer who is actually whiter than she is. She headed to Villanova to study business, I mean education, I mean nursing. Yup, the child who has come closest to an “assault on a nurse” conviction is going to BE a nurse! Can you say Karma? What’s another semester or two. She also has joined a sorority. I wonder what will happen if she treats her new sisters like she treats her old sister…

Will’s tuition went from zero to 60 faster than you can say “actors don’t make much”. In keeping with the campaign theme this year, he changed schools, cities, and animal phobias. Ever since his encounter with a friendly squirrel on a park bench in NYC, mice are a breeze. Senior Year hoopla characterized the earlier half of Will’s year. That and an epidemic of T-Ping houses. Including ours. Twice. Apparently this is a sign of affection. Boy, did I feel loved.

Remember how last year’s letter talked about how happy Kev was at his new school? We lied. We bailed him out 3 weeks after last year’s letter was mailed. He is now back at Fountain Valley in Colorado Springs and as content as any sixteen- year- old boy can be. He currently holds the title for most expensive sophomore year in history. Kev spent the summer scooping at Cold Stone but somehow managed to drop 25 lbs. Sorry, but no, I don’t know her name.

In the most bittersweet story of 2008 , our little Nicki bailed on childhood. She left for camp a sweet-talking, guitar-playing, parent–pleasing thirteen-year-old. When I picked her up (in the middle of flippin’ nowhere) 2 and a half weeks later…the boys were ‘smokin’, the music was ‘jammin’ and Carlie from Alabama had taught her how to ‘cuss’ in several octaves. Fourteen was only a few weeks away and I was experiencing a severe case of déjà vu…

Our biggest struggle this holiday is Cam’s daily change of list for Santa. He has definitely decided…that he can’t really decide. Which might lead to a new role for Santa in ‘Bi-Polar Express’. In our most recent attempt to win the “worst parent of the year award” (we long ago bailed on best), Cam is an avid member of Facebook and connoisseur of YouTube. We’re tired, okay???

Speaking of YouTube, you can catch Phil on there in a ‘Death of Credit’ speech that was spookily accurate. Fortunately, he did not have this revelation about the market before he had bought me my long-coveted…and long-denied BAYHOUSE ! (in Stone Harbor). Our very own. With a boat. I am a very happy camper. And the best part is, that everyone else is too. Including Phil. Even tho’ we are now more broke than GM (and even tho’ my brother and I outscored him on the boating license test). Tee-hee.

I wish I had bailed from my bike 10 seconds earlier when I hit a rough patch in Stone Harbor last August. My road-burned face was a frightening sight for the upperclassmen helping Kris and Will move into their respective colleges the next day. Unfortunately a broken wrist and finger didn’t make me much help. Never one to accept the glass as half empty, it didn’t take me long to master the left-handers corkscrew. Thank God, we finally got Phil cleared of the abuse charge … right around the time my cast came off.

With the financial world crumbling around us, I’m preparing for the potential of Phil needing a bailout too. Let’s face it folks, I may have to become the breadwinner. It’s OK; just between us, I have a plan. No kidding. I am now the proud owner of my very own domain. For you lucky female friends who are over 40, look for this spring. Think Facebook for the 40+ crowd (girls only, sorry guys!). And if you are not over forty…fear not…you will be. ☺

On that note, let us end with heartfelt wishes to you and yours for a warm, wonderful, gratitude-filled holiday.

Peace on earth, goodwill to all,

Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki and Cammy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 2007

Once upon a time there was an application. Actually there were 21 applications (if you don’t count summer camps). Applying to college is a life-altering experience. Phil’s life has been permanently altered. He can answer in 250 words or less any personal question about any topic that any college might ask any applicant (or any applicant’s father).

Meanwhile, I am now on a first name basis with the admissions directors at several east coast boarding schools….none of which Kevin actually applied to because who would go to a school with Saturday classes and a dress code? *
We should have known that we were headed for application hell when 10 minutes after I returned from a six–day, three-state, five-school college reconnaissance trip with Will and his buddy Eric, Kristen’s 15 applications were due. An hour later, Kevin called from his previously wonderful boarding school in Colorado Springs to say “I think I might want to transfer…” “Oh, ok. When are applications due?” “Yesterday.” “Oh good.”

Funny. Will’s applications for pre-college summer programs (a must for any self-respecting musical theatre major) were also due that week.

For any of you who have not yet fully experienced the application process, it’s important to note that it is often followed by a period of euphoria (the ^%#@ forms are finished), then by a period of depression (I’ll never get in), and then by a period of smugness (I was right! I didn’t get in), followed by a slow dawning of hysteria (my life is over), and then pitiful justification (I didn’t want to go there anyway!), finally punctuated by shameless begging at the admission director’s doorstep.

And lo and behold…it worked. Kristen did in fact beg her way into the school of her choice. Kristen is now a happy… I repeat happy - (yes, thank God, puberty is finally over, at least for one of them) - freshman at Villanova. And I am one happy mama…as my big brother (who used to send my dates screaming into the night) lives just a mile from her dorm ☺

Meanwhile, Kev is just one state away at Peddie School in NJ (*despite the Saturday classes and the dress code!). We are still scratching our collective heads trying to figure out how the Rockies, who had never even made the play-offs in the seven years we’ve lived in Denver, suddenly end up in the World Series when Kev is 2000 miles away! We are also trying to figure out how we got bamboozled into flying him home for two of the games. Lucky for us when he was on the flight back to school AND in the depths of depression (while we were taking out a second mortgage to pay for his trip), he happened to sit next to the father of Dan O’Dowd, the Rockies GM, who was also in the depths. Misery loves company.

Also in the news: Will was stalked by squirrels - one in the laundry room right next to his bathroom, and the other plastered against the screen window in his little bedroom scratching his evil paws only inches from Will’s head (according to Will). Many of you may not know that Will suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after an encounter with a rabid squirrel when he was a preschooler! To add insult to injury, just last month a nosy parker mouse decided to visit the powder room at the same time that Will was taking care of some important business. Talk about a story! We have made an executive and unanimous decision to spare you the details of that encounter. We have also temporarily hidden the squirrel ornament that Kristen lovingly gave Will last Christmas.

Cameron has had some momentous events this year…he tackled the blue runs at Breckenridge; learned the f word; moved to a new school which he calls “Waldork”; asked to use the f word; got glasses; protested when we said he couldn’t use the f word; mastered a 2-wheeler; used the f word anyway; played Head Guard to Nicki’s Aladdin in at DU’s summer theater workshop; asked what the f word meant; took up violin; found out what the f word meant; giggled.

With Nicki now a teen, we are completely outnumbered. But the biggest issue since she turned 13 has been that I am sick and tired of going to 7th grade! This is my fourth time in six years. Folks, it’s getting old! Could we please get some new projects?! Please! No more family trees, name essays, models of rocks, Africa Days. Couldn’t we have Iowa Day? The study of Rice Krispies and what makes them snap crackle pop? Family Feuds? Or as Cam would say: “Sweet Niblets”! Let’s change it up!

My year seemed to be devoted to an inordinate amount of fundraising…something that I swore I’d never do. In the past twelve months I have asked, begged, cajoled, bullied, and nearly panhandled to the point where my friends cringe when I call, write or email. Who knows? This Christmas card may be a cleverly disguised appeal… When I’m not fundraising, I am planning to fundraise, being talked into fundraising or profusely thanking those poor slobs who I have succeeded in fundraising from. But poor slobs take heart…my New Year’s Resolution is NO MORE FUNDRAISING! (at least not after the end of Kempe’s fiscal year…).

Phil was a trooper last winter when his ski plans turned to shoveling strategies following his embarrassing knee injury at the hands of then-16-year-old Will. (See last year’s letter for more details). He continues to be top-dad in all of our books…writing (oops I mean editing) essays, buying dozens of black sox for auditions, scoring prime world series tix, playing golf with up & coming Nic, and learning every song to High School Musical 2. Not to mention hosting or supporting at least a dozen Kempe events….how did we get so lucky? Good thing he is kind of annoying-otherwise he’d be too good to be true.

As for the two of us, we celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss on August 8th. Why on earth would we think that climbing to the top of the highest peak in Breckenridge would be a good way to celebrate? Were we each trying to kill the other guy? Pretty clever…must be a subconscious result of too much Law & Order.

Other highlights of our year include Nicki’s fainting spell during her moment of glory as the sixth grade queen at the Graland knighting ceremony; Cam giving me the nickname of Oldilocks on my 46th birthday; Phil leaping out of the open MRI machine despite the severe knee injury it was evaluating, and Kev’s e-mail that asked how I was.

And this just in: Will was accepted at NYU’s Tisch School!!! So next year we will have three of our clan back east. It may be time to renew our EZ Pass.

We hope that you and your loved ones had lots of memorable moments this year too! Please join us as we continue to pray for our troops and their families.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a great New Year with love from all of us,
Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki, and Cam

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas 2006

Highlights from our 2006 Budget

Instead of writing our usual letter this year, we decided to entertain you with some of the more sordid details of our annual budget. But before you analyze the financial data contained in the attached memo, it may help to review these notes:

We decided to sell our New York house so that we could buy a ski house in Colorado. We bought a ski house. We furnished the ski house. We paid a lawyer to set up a tax shelter that required us to rent aforementioned ski house. We hired a real estate agent to rent ski house. We had lots of people ask to rent ski house. We decided that we didn’t really want to rent ski house. We paid a lawyer to disassemble the tax shelter. We didn’t sell our NY house. We spent a lot of money fixing up the NY house. We still didn’t sell the NY house. We paid lots of taxes on both houses.

We said a bad word.

We took the family to Disneyland. We met every Disney princess. Each princess apparently had a secret for each other princess. Cameron was lucky enough to be the chosen secret carrier. We spent most of our time in Disneyland trying to find whichever princess the secret of the day was for. They were some expensive secrets.

The rest of the time we spent driving to Hollywood for lunch.

While driving to Hollywood for lunch, Cam had to pee. Cam “I have to pee”. Phil: “I can’t pull over here. Someone give him a water bottle.” Me: “You want him to pee in a water bottle?” Phil: “Sure, I used to do it all the time.” Me: “You used to pee in a water bottle?” Phil: “Yeah, all guys do…hey, Willie, climb to the back and help Cam ‘steer the ship.’” Will: “No way Dad, I love Cam, but there is no way that I’m going back there to help him ‘steer the ship’.” Nicki: “Eww, move over, I’m climbing up front”. Kevin: “I’m not helping him….ouch, Nicki you’re stepping on me”! Cam: “I unzipped my pants”. Phil: “Ok, put it in the water bottle”. Me “You want him to put it IN the water bottle??”
Phil “Sure, I used to do it all the time.” Cam: “Ok, I put it in the bottle.” Me: “You used to put in a water bottle!?” Cam, gleefully: “I’m peeing!” Phil: “Good job. Be careful…don’t spill---hey Will get back there and make sure he doesn’t spill” Will: “Sorry Dad, no way.” Cam: “Oops, it spilled!” Phil: “Damn!” Me: “You used to put it IN a water bottle?” Phil: “Actually, maybe it was a Gatorade bottle”…

Kristen said “Mom, you were right.” She did. I swear. Last night. Of course, then she asked for money. And a new dress. When Kris and Phil college-tripped from Maryland to Florida last spring break, they played a game in which the object was to put the ugliest people you saw on the other person’s team before they could put them on yours. Nice father-daughter bonding experience, eh? We’ve worked hard on helping Kristen develop this empathetic, non-judgmental, ‘beauty is more than skin-deep’ view of the world. Maybe you’d like Kris to teach your kids how to play.

At the ripe old age of 14, Kev decided that he’d had enough of us. In late August, he headed to school in Colorado Springs without a backwards glance. Despite our fervent hopes that this boarding experience would develop his sense of personal responsibility and hygiene…on Parents Weekend we were dismayed to find that he still decorates his room with dirty socks, crumpled boxer shorts and empty Gatorade bottles…hmm… must be a father/son thing. When he arrived home for Thanksgiving break his duffel was filled with wet clothes. “I didn’t have enough quarters for the dryer.” he claimed. While in many ways, he is still our same old Kev…sleeping ‘til noon, speaking in monosyllables, and worshiping junk food; there are also signs of a new Kev: one who runs up mountains, pumps iron, and kind of hugs his sister when visiting home.

Will’s acting career continues to play havoc with the family calendar and budget. We’ve been forced to pay cancellation fees for rescheduled vacations, flights and elective surgeries as well as to lie to teachers, directors, airlines, doctors, and probably some family members as a result of conflicts between simultaneous rehearsals and performances. When we told his vocal director that Nicki had broken her arm in order to get Will to another performance on time…I thought that we had sunk as low as we could go. But no. When he called to challenge us, and I ended up challenging him for challenging us (mind you, her arm was as good as new); I knew then that it was all over. I had become a stage mother. God help us all.

Nicki’s music interests continue to command a good chunk of our lesson dollars. She is currently the proud owner of an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, an electric bass, a French horn, and a noisy parakeet named Doc. The high points of her year include the 7:00 AM rendition of “Happy Puberty Day to You” sung to her by her father on the morning of the sacred yet dreaded film…”Just around the Corner”. Also figuring high on the memorable moments list was our end of year party for 58 of her closest and most hormonal fifth grade friends…which culminated with Phil dunking one of the worst offenders into the basketball hoop.

After putting his back out last Christmas, Phil swore that he was going to get in shape. And get in shape he did. Between his personal trainer, my chiropractor, his golf instructor, my muscle activation therapist, his chiropractor, my pilates instructor, his muscle activation therapist, and my new treadmill, we have reduced the heft of his wallet by over 60%!

When my “Girls Weekend” in April was followed by a 5 day all-female canoe trip in September, rumor has it that there was some mild to moderate concern about the direction that my midlife crisis was taking me. When word got out that I was chaperoning the 2006 Colorado State Lesbian Convention last week in downtown Denver, all hell broke loose. “I SAID THESPIAN---- NOT LESBIAN”! I clarified.

There was a collective sigh…”phew”

The Actual Budget

Cost of ski house-Don’t ask. It must be at the top of the bubble if we are buying.

Cost of furniture-budget zero. But we bought the only unfurnished house in Breck.

Cost of lawyer-many thousands. Value added: zero.

Cost of cork screws-$500. Sounds high but we never want to be unprepared.

Cost of cancelled spring break flights-our integrity. Bald-faced lies without hesitation.

Cost of 7 photos of Cam with Disney Princesses-$10,000 (not including lunch with Ariel).

Cost of rental car damage charge after water bottle incident -Zero. We blamed it on a dog.

Cost of adding two drivers to our family insurance policy-precisely $4968 for starters.

Cost of adding two cars to our parking lot-about the same as our monthly Conoco bill.

Cost of paying out of pocket repairs for teen drivers’ fender benders to avoid even higher insurance policy-anybody know a place where we can get volume discounts? (Kevin gets his permit in April!)

Cost of Gretchen’s midlife crisis: new hair color, 45th birthday party, new hair color, low rise pants, new hair color, more expensive wine, new hair color, 5 day canoe trip, new hair color, registration fee for state lesbian convention….

Cost of Phil’s midlife crisis: cowboy boots, golf lesson, new sunglasses, golf lesson, personal trainer, golf lesson, teeth whitening, golf lesson, torn MCL resulting from wrestling match with 16 year old son, cancelled golf lesson, upgrade to first class to accomodate injury, therapy for depression resulting from cancelled golf lesson.

Enough about us, what about you?

Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday along with an financially uneventful New Year!
Please pray for our troops and for those in need around the world.

Much Love,
Cam, Nicki, Kevin, Will, Kris, Gretchen & Phil
(Cam was tired of being last)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas 2005

The Seefried Family Personal Ads (Christmas 2005)

MWM (45) seeks personal assistant to pay bills, uncork wine, organize battery drawer, and listen to repetitive golf stories;
MWF (44) seeks travel agent with medical background and taxicab;
SWF (16) seeks life of 26 year old including no rules, no curfew, steady paycheck;
SWM (15) seeks talent agent. Must own bakery or candy store;
SWM (13) seeks hit man to off David Ortiz
SWF (11) seeks (hot) members for band. Especially bass player (must be very hot!);
SWM (6) seeks introduction to Cinderella, but will settle for any Disney princess!

Now that our household consists of three teens, a pre-teen, and a six-year-old teen wannabe, everything is personal. We have so many hormones raging the Denver police have designated a new crime category “Home Rage”. That is the charge when anyone reacts so strongly to someone eating the last cookie that they try to kill them. It also covers reactions to whistling, singing, staring, saying hi to your brother’s friend, touching anyone’s anything, or asking “how was your day?”

Travel was the name of the game in 2005…collectively we logged enough miles on United to be awarded our own flight attendant (but she ate the last pack of peanuts, so we had to kill her).

In January, after years of trying to convince me to go “South of the Border”, Phil finally got his wish …sort of… and we headed to Mexico for a long weekend in January. It was a memorable trip in the way that most trips to Mexico are memorable. Enough said.

On February 1st, I flew to NY to surprise Kris for her sweet 16. Over the course of her sixteenth year she has ingested 563 slices of pizza, made 492 calls to complain, bemoaned her lack of money on 358 separate occasions, blamed someone else for everything 216 times, watched 197 episodes of Law & Order, used 12,597 cell phone minutes and logged at least 25,681 frequent flyer miles between DIA and LaGuardia.

March found us in San Francisco where Phil was shocked and dismayed to find (in an elevator with a mirrored ceiling of all places) that we weren’t kidding about his bald spot. The other people on the elevator were pretty shocked and dismayed themselves as apparently they had never seen a grown man cry.

Will continues to consume significantly more than one-fifth of my driving hours, our performing arts funds, and the family food supply. Since January, his roles have run the gamut from a Roman teenager competing with his father for the beautiful blonde (a mid-life fantasy for many dads we know) to a childless baker on a mission to steal Red Riding Hood’s cape! He also acted like a pretty convincing innocent bystander when he and friend Eve got picked up by cops while walking to the grocery store at 2AM…what??...they were hungry.

Kevin’s life dream came true last summer, when Phil and he flew to Detroit (glad that wasn’t my life dream) for three days of MLB All-Star mania. Kev came home with enough baseball paraphernalia to open his own stadium. Come September, he got a free make-over when several of Will’s female pals decided to update Kev’s look. Our clothing budget is now shot as he is no longer happy in old Yankee shirts and hand-me-down jeans. Along with his new appearance, Kev has developed an attitude…as well as a social life. His first big coed party somehow managed to coincide with parents’ weekend at Masters. I’m still not sure which one of us drew the short straw…but try to picture Phil and Will playing chaperone to 40+ thirteen and fourteen year olds… in our basement and on a mission.

Nicki is a savvy eleven year-old who dreads the hallmark of fifth grade…“Puberty Day”. Seeing that puberty has been the hallmark of our household since the turn of the millennium, it shouldn’t be that traumatic! Nicole has been testing the performance waters alongside Will, and was pretty cool last summer as a Thunderbird in Grease! This week she debuted as Granny in Into the Woods. If anyone had ever told me that I’d pay ten bucks (eight times) to see my daughter eaten by a wolf…and then cut out of the wolf’s stomach by her brother, the Baker, I never would have believed them…Nick has also been seen jamming around some Denver dives on her electric guitar. She is asking Santa for two monster cables, a special effects pedal and a parakeet. Guess we’ll have to soundproof her room…

Cameron. When he was one, I thought it was ‘fun’. When he was two, I thought ‘almost through’. When he was three, I thought ‘God help me’. When he was four, I thought ‘this is a chore’. When he was five, I thought ‘bury me alive’. But now he is six…and loving and clever…I hope he stays six forever and ever! His favorite activities include the monkey bars, spin art and (his new e-mail address…he’d LOVE to hear from you)!

As for Phil and me, well…we just do our best to keep smiling, drinking and playing one, two, three shoot to see who wins the late night rehearsal pick-up or the early morning coffee run. We’ve decided to sell the NY house and dig deeper into Denver…maybe a mountain house some day? We’d love to see you here or on the Jersey shore when we head East for July. Any interest in renting the Stone Harbor house in June or August, let us know!

This year we continue to pray for our troops and their families, as well as for all of those uprooted by Katrina and Rita.

We wish you peace, joy, health, and happiness!
With Love, Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kevin, Nicole & Cameron

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas 2004

We’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz…

On this occasion of the 10th anniversary of our annual Christmas treatise, I was briefly tempted to simply re-issue the original letter in a fancy envelope and leave it at that. But now that even Cameron knows how to spell “cop out”, I was forced to reconsider. Finding a theme was the next conundrum. As we drew straws for who got stuck with the late night pick-up from Will’s “Oz” rehearsals, I was inspired. While I had every intention of casting myself as Glinda, the good witch, the rest of the family seemed to think that I more closely resemble her wicked sister (I have to admit, green is one of my favorite colors)!

West Palm Beach resembled the land of Oz last Christmas… ten days after we moved (and about ten minutes after I mailed last year’s letter) we headed to Florida to spend the holidays with Phil’s family. 14 munchkins, oops, I mean cousins, crammed into a family room built for 4, vying for presents, candy canes and Grandma’s undivided attention. It was all worth it! Except for maybe the midnight fire alarm in our hotel …

Follow the yellow brick road… we actually did it… for 28 hours of middle-aged mom/teenage daughter/teenage son bonding along I-70 eastbound enroute to the Jersey shore. While Kristen looks cute in braids…somehow it’s hard to picture her as an innocent from Kansas. After eight hours of highway with little more to look at than billboards “TRIPLE XXX ADULT STORE… SEX TOYS HALF-PRICE” and truckers who dared to pass her:“Where the ^%#$#$^do you think you are going?!! I could take you$%&%*^!!”…Will and I breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed over the bridge into Kansas City, Missouri and saw actual two-story buildings. Civilization at last!

Now that Kris is a boarder at The Masters School in NY, the only thing she really wants from the wizard is MONEY... “you guys are so naïve to think that a person can get by on $50 a week in NY. Things are really expensive here!!” (Mind you, we lived there ourselves for over 13 years and, by the way, EVERYTHING she eats , sleeps, and breathes is already paid for)!

Will really feels like he has made it to the Emerald City. He started his fourteenth year with a surprise trip to Vegas with Phil. In two and a half days they managed to ride the rollercoaster at New York, New York 34 times. (Phil had vertigo for weeks) Though he played the Tinman last month, there is little need for a new heart; Will’s summer theatrics involved two passionate kissing scenes in Oklahoma! out on the Jersey shore. This was closely followed by an early August start at his new high school, Denver School of the Arts. When I asked about his Halloween costume plans, he replied “Mom, at DSA every day is Halloween.” He is asking the wizard for a chance to re-do those kissing scenes now that his braces are off!

Though Kevin had to search for enough courage to face the dreaded Red Sox fan bandwagon at school this fall, he is more committed than ever to becoming the Yankees GM. Every morning he regales us with obscure baseball statistics from the sports pages. A 7th grader now, he is showing the faintest glimmer of attitude, but still good-naturedly endures limitless abuse from Cameron (who loves to scream “Go Red Sox!” whenever he sees Kevin). Now the oldest Seefried at Graland, he has adjusted well to the role of protector. On the roller rink, he was a regular Dave Schulz, leading the league in penalty minutes. Kevin is asking the wizard for Randy Johnson, straight As, tickets to the next World Series, a lifetime supply of fudge along with an out-of-state adoptive family for Cameron.

Nicole is starting down the yellow brick road of theater too. After playing Harriet the Spy in June, she was a chorus member in Oklahoma (the better to see Will’s kissing rehearsals!), and recently landed a part as the balloon girl in a local high school production of Gypsy! A real renaissance gal, she continues with piano, voice, guitar, soccer, girl scouts and basketball. A developing hoopster she scored 17 points in her first game this fall after being basketless all summer! She is asking the Wizard for an electric guitar, Spongebob slippers, a dog like Toto, and a perpetual playdate with Faye or Cecilia.

While he campaigned early on for the role of Glinda, Cameron is kind of like our own personal munchkin -way too wise for his size. This year, after outgrowing his wheat allergy he discovered the #1 vehicle for sugar, doughnuts with icing and sprinkles. He was hooked. A kindergartener now, he loves to write letters to one and all. One of our favorites: Dear Kris, I hat you! Love Cameron. He plays a mean game of rock, paper, scissors (cheats every time) and is on a personal mission to keep Wendy’s in business. When his dad took him out for the ultimate father/son model rocket-launching experience, he ran screaming into the night and it was weeks before he forgave Phil who he now refers to as “Rocket Boy”.

Speaking of Phil, he’d be willing to endure flying monkeys, jitterbugs, lions, tigers and bears and even ten more years with the wicked witch if only the Wizard would give him “the perfect swing”. Yes, golf is still his main obsession. He thought he’d landed in Oz last summer when he traveled to Doonbeg, Ireland for the ultimate guy’s guy golfing/drinking extravaganza. Rumor has it his partner Matt and he drank enough Guinness to finance the Guiness advertising budget:brilliant! But he arrived home intact and with another “exquisite” crystal bowl for the mantel and a big smile on his face.

Somewhere over the rainbow…I’m actually there. I discovered the pot of gold-otherwise known as full-day kindergarten. After almost 16 years on the afternoon play date circuit. I am a free woman. Time alone is heavenly…one day I actually sat down (and it wasn’t in the car).

Dorothy was right, there really is no place like home…note the singular…yes, after 13 long months we finally sold the nightmare on Elm Street. Though our Irvington house is still in our real estate holdings, at least we don’t have to shovel there!

The lowest point of the year came in early August when we lost our beloved niece Betsy to Batten Disease. She touched hundreds and hundreds of people during her far too brief life and she is terribly missed. We are so grateful for the years we had with her and for her extraordinary family Chris, Kim, Kate, Courtney, and Dougie. We pray for them and for all the families who are missing a loved one this holiday.

Wishing you and yours happiness, health and peace in the New Year…

Or as Cameron would say “Feliz Navidad, Aloha!”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas 2003

To friends and family near and far,

Every year around the third week of November (just as merchants are setting up displays of Valentine’s candy), I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach which I optimistically attribute to the flu. I moan awhile, sigh a lot, curse out loud and try to figure out how long until the next person will throw up, how long until the last person will throw up, and how many loads of laundry will be involved in between those two events.

After a while of not throwing up, I decide to eat a few squares of ready-made cookie dough because, just in case I do throw up, it won’t really count. After a day or two I remember what is actually causing that sick feeling in my stomach…it’s time to write the annual Christmas letter. So I eat the rest of the ready-made cookie dough (all eighteen squares), drink a bottle of wine…okay maybe two… and here we go!

Christmas 2003: The Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Time For A Midlife Crisis

Reason #10: You’re the first one asleep on New Year’s Eve despite the fact that it’s only 7 o’clock Denver time, you’re at a Jamaican resort with lousy (but free) wine on every corner, and even eight year-old Nicki is ringing in the New Year ala Jimmy Buffet. Yes, we took the family away last year. An all-inclusive deal, or as Phil says, "all you can fit under your spandex", i.e. fat people with spray tans, false boobs, and multiple tattoos. Think Disneyworld partially clothed. The kids LOVED it; we were glad to get home.

Reason #9: In the space of a single week you’re mistaken for Cameron’s grandmother, asked if your children are all grown, and told that you look just like your mother.

#8: Your mother turns seventy.

Reason #7: Your husband begins primping more for his golf lessons with “Craig” than he does for date night with you. “ Do you think this golf shirt make me look fat?” Yes the obsession continues, but has reached new heights. Practice hours are up…as is his handicap. But he's happy as a girl with her first crush.

Reason #6: At your 20th college reunion, the kids offer to give up their allowance if only you don’t make them wear the free purple cow t-shirt.

Reason #5: When you walk into class on the first day of “going-back-to-school-for-an-art degree” the other students think you’re the instructor, listen to the same (horrifying) music as your kids, and mistake your crow’s feet for cool facial tattoos.

Reason #4: As you prepare to catch a flight to Maui for your first no-kids vacation in six years, your thirteen year-old son slaps you on the back with the advice “ practice safe sex”. This one hurt. By the way is sleeping considered “safe sex”? If so, we were fine.

Reason #3: Your dependable ketchup-loving, shower-shunning , hockey pad-smelling, comb-resisting, girl-hating eleven year-old asks you to pick him up some deodorant.
This is like a shift in the power of Congress. The ones that sweat are now in the majority. We are doomed.

Reason #2: Your four year old’s favored form of greeting is “Nice Butt, Dude” and he’s greeted by the girls at Starbucks as if he were Norm on Cheers. “CAMERON!!!” It gets better, he proceeds to order a triple venti non fat latte. When he pulls exact change out of his backpack, I’m retiring!

And Reason #1: …the number one reason why it’s time for a mid-life crisis: Your teenage daughter writes a funnier Christmas letter than you do. Highlights from Kristen’s letter:

• Kris meets five Jamaican hotties.
• Rent ghetto condo (IN VAIL) read: she has to share bathroom
• Dad invents brong (an innovative coupling of bra and thong –apparently already invented by Victoria's Secret)
• Kev wears deodorant
• Nicole makes list of hot third grade boys for family’s enlightenment
• Dad has affair with Craig
• Mom’s underwear sings (another invention from Victoria)
• Will’s underwear shows (recent symptom of teen boy low rider syndrome)
• Kris’underwear shrinks (recent teen girl phenomenon)
• Dad tries to get skinny
• Cam learns all the words to “Baby got Back” which include “would you look at her butt, it is so big” (Are you sensing a theme?)
• Kris has baby (actually “Baby Think About It” a three day “experiential learning doll” courtesy of the progressive health program at Graland…) hmm, if that had been around when we got married, we could have gotten by with my old Toyota Corolla!
• Dad puts foot down about buying a new house…ABSOLUTELY NOT!
• (See enclosed card for new address)

This year we are grateful for our loyal New York pals, our deepening Denver friendships, the memorable times with family including Steve’s wedding, Easter with Grandma, Mom’s seventieth, sleepovers at Uncle Chris’ house, Lollie & Pop-pop’s Denver visit, and our upcoming Florida reunion with Phil’s family for Christmas.

Wishing you all the peace and joy of the season as well as happiness and health in the New Year.

Love Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kevin, Nicole, and Cam.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas 2002

Go, Gretch. Go.


Big kid. Little kid.

Big kids and little kids.

Glad kids and fad kids.

Mad kids and rad kids.

Dad kids.

The kids are all going around and around and around.

Go around again!

That about sums it up… Go! Stop! Go! Go around again!

We’ve been reading Go, Dog. Go! for thirteen years now. Like people with their pets, I guess it was inevitable that we would begin to resemble the characters...

“On the Road Again” is our official theme song for 2002. Our year developed into one continual road trip beginning with the holiday hop from hell last New Year’s when we made the grave tactical error of flying into Newark to expedite our six-day three-state extravaganza. Airport insanity was compounded by Cameron’s ear infection, my sinus infection, a Friday night New York rush hour, multiple simultaneous sleepovers (all in different towns) and was topped off with a stomach flu that traveled from Irvington to Philadelphia along with us. Are you starting to sing along?

Immediately following our return trip to Colorado and despite our travel travails, we gamely hit the road again in January at 6:00 AM every single $^#**% Saturday for six weeks along with a million other Denver nutcases making the manic drive to ski school. One hundred miles up and one hundred miles back with seven hours of skiing (scared) in between. As Kristen would say: “Oh, joyous occasions!”

Getting four kids and a wife into ski equipment every week wasn’t enough for Phil (he’s been a closet masochist for years…); in February, he volunteered to chaperone the seventh grade ski trip to Steamboat Springs…So on Kristen’s thirteenth birthday he set out in a bus with Kris and fifty-seven of her closest friends for the ultimate father-daughter, daughter’s teachers, daughter’s friends, daughter’s ex-friends, daughter’s crushes, daughter’s crushees, daughters’ ex-crushes, daughter’s ex-crushees bonding experience. Imagine his surprise when the four and half hour drive concluded in a fifty-eight person hot tub despite the darkness, the sub-zero air temp and the fact that the tub was designed for eight…max.

Before we moved to Colorado, our kids’ idea of a long trip was a drive to the mall…but here in the wild West, people’s idea of a Sunday drive is a drive that takes the WHOLE Sunday! Do you think it was a cop-out to get a car with a VCR and five sets of headphones? We don’t! So…over the kids’ spring break we took out stock in Blockbuster and caravaned to Tucson with our good friends, the Friends (cool, huh?) 18 hours…one way. What’s one missed turn…a four hour shortcut?!! Yikes.

Come June we road-tripped again…but this time via United to the Jersey Shore for a brief reprieve from the hectic schedule. The east coast was blissful. The only time I climbed into the car was to venture off the island for supplies. We had long weekends with both of our extended families as well as an extremely memorable Fourth of July when our crazy pals, the Cashels, parked their thirty-two foot long RV in front of our house which has only 28 feet of curb (much to our neighbor’s dismay!...)

In August, we embarked on a short (anything is short after Tucson) trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons by way of Jackson Hole. We sped along desolate Wyoming roads with Cameron belting out Baptist songs courtesy of Kristen’s southern camp experience: “Rise and shine and give God your glory glory, rise and shine…”

For the first time, Kris ventured off to sleep-away camp in North Carolina along with her best NY pal, Cub. Imagine our distress upon hearing that only one week after I got her settled she slipped her Grandma an S.O.S. note while attending the local mass. After much hoopla, calls to counselors, dramatic phonecalls, desperate letters, we were startled to find posted on the camp website a photo of her slow-dancing with some unfamiliar boy! Suddenly her letters became more upbeat…well, of course she was happy: the carefully chosen all-girl camp had imported boys!!!

Will spent part of his summer back at Camp Thunderbird in Minnesota tackling his own big road trip…a 140 mile three day bike journey! Back at home, he opened last week as Charlie, the anvil salesman in The Music Man at our local theatre: he has gained the nickname “Velcro” due to his uncanny ability to attract teenaged girls.

Kevin gets around on his own set of wheels…over the past two years he’s become a lean mean rollerblading machine...a big player on two winning teams. I repeat: winning teams! Phil has experienced nirvana. Kev’s hockey player buzz cut was a big hit with the girls at cotillion…and to our great surprise he didn’t really seem to mind.

Nicole is our real road warrior. She sports her purple belt in taekwando, is soccer goalie for “The Groovy Girls”, serves as Cameron’s own personal stand-up comedian, plays a mean piano, and is well-known in the second grade for her prowess with a yo-yo. Road rage still rules when she and Kev share the back seat of the Suburban…sigh…so we’ve resorted to moving the car-seat between them …the Great Wall of Cameron. So far so good.

Speaking of Cameron, “Go, Cam, Go!” has also been an oft-heard phrase as this was the year of the potty-training. After his initial reaction to the suggestion that he do his business in the bathroom was “ I hate bafrooms” he eventually caught on and became so enamored by the idea of having my undivided attention, that some mornings would insist on sitting there for half an hour!

Our continual wrestle with the ubiquitous journey/destination question took a sober turn in late August when Phil’s dad and best friend was diagnosed with cancer. We lost him in less than five weeks and it’s been devastating. The one comfort we have is the legacy that he left…ten grandchildren and counting. He will live on in our hearts and theirs forever. We feel extremely grateful for the prayers, love, and support offered by all of you during these difficult months.

We send you our thanks and love as well as our own prayers for peace.

Gretchen, Phil, Kristen, Will, Kev, Nicole and Cameron

Sunday, December 12, 2010


How was I to know when I talked Phil into one more baby that nothing, and I mean nothing, is designed for families of seven? Not vacation homes, not kitchen tables, not SUVs, not cute placemat sets, not even KFC's family size bucket! Cameron is our own personal super-sizing dilemma.

In other lead stories...

Big doings at the dinner table; Kevin ate a carrot. And he didn't throw up. He didn't even make those awful throwing up sounds. Before you start celebrating for us, be assured that ketchup and Reese's Cups are still his foods of choice and he continues to recover from the day I snuck some grated squash into the pancakes! The other top story is that Kristen has given up life as a other words, she ate a hotdog. So, now she'll eat hotdogs. BUT, they have to be BARBEQUED. And she'll even stoop so low as to ingest chicken. BUT, it also must be BARBEQUED. Now that Phil is working again (see lead story in FINANCIAL NEWS), BBQing has gone by the wayside. So instead of the coveted cell phone, we've decided to get Kris her own gas grill for Christmas...You Grill, Girl!

Nicki. Need I say more? Okay, okay...Nicki is something like the 'little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead...' In recent months, she has lost a mouthful of teeth, tackled tae kwon do, succinctly expressed her personal views about a particular that particular teacher, accused Phil and me of being too romantic whenever we so much as glance at each other, and regaled us with stories about the little boy in her class who wants to know how to kiss girls. When we nervously inquired about her teaching methodology, she assured us she'd told him to practice on the school's brick wall! Whew.

Despite three seasons of soccer, two seasons of roller hockey, and one season of lacrosse since we settled in Denver, we have yet to see a win. I'm not talking about a winning season, I'm talking about a winning game! Of course, since Phil isn't very competitive, it isn't that big of a deal...excuse me for a moment..."Phil, honey, I think it's time you take your hands off of the ref's neck now and let him get home in one piece for the holidays...honey...HONEY!"

Leisure? Did someone say leisure? Oh, sure, I guess that was a leisurely drive to rehearsal...I didn't honk at anyone this time did I? Oh, I did on the drive home? No, I think that was during the drive back to deliver the socks that Will forgot. Oh? I was yelling at the slow pedestrian then, the honking was when I went back to pick up Kevin from rehearsal? Are you sure it wasn't when Kristen realized that she didn't have to be at rehearsal that day? Well, thanks for clearing that up. It was an exciting fall, not only for all the other drivers (not to mention pedestrians), but also watching Kris and Will perform in The Sound of Music here in Denver. Having learned all of the songs by heart two years ago in New York, it was...well, refreshing isn't exactly the word... Anyway, the house was alive with the sound of music. And we are all eager to see Kevin, a.k.a. Ron Weasley in a Harry Potter production this spring.

Another misnomer. We traveled, but it would be a stretch to call it leisure travel. Picture this: a breathtakingly beautiful national park filled with one-of-a-kind rock formations, once-in-a-lifetime views, spectacular panoramas. Then picture this: an aging Suburban crammed with contentious siblings including a two year-old learning the power of a scream, a 12 year-old perfecting the preteen whine (as in: why do we have to go to Utah? I hate Utah! None of my friends have to go to Utah) an 11 year-old having re-entry stress after a month at sleep-away camp (otherwise known as freedom), nine and seven year-olds who haven't exchanged a civil word since 1997. Top this off with Phil in start-up mode (again), and me on the wagon (see MEDICAL & HEALTH NEWS for more on this unfortunate state of affairs). Ugh.

I have recently offered, make that begged, to personally fund the R&D of an alcohol-friendly medication for the parasite Giardia, a delightful memento from the Avon 3-Day walk. Advice for future walkers: ONLY DRINK THE BOTTLED WATER! Ten days on the wagon after three days on the unfair.

I tried, I really did, to get Phil to buy me a house on the bay last summer. I mean what's the big deal? I know we live in Denver now, and NJ is nearly 2000 miles away but still...consider it a change of scenery...okay, consider it an investment...okay, consider it complete and utter frivolity! So what if it cost more than our house in Denver and our house in NY combined. Just because Phil hasn't seen a paycheck in over eighteen months...what's your point? Whose side are you on, anyway? Do you want to get an invitation to the shore or not? In terms of current real estate holdings, the punch list at 70 Elm Street hasn't changed one iota since this time last year. The house even has some special features we hadn't been aware of before. For example, the other evening Kris was able to play the piano and take a shower at the same time. All of this while I was trying to fill the tub...

In deference to polite society, Phil finally decided to go back to work. After his attempt to change the world (by obsessively working out) failed (i.e. nobody noticed his enormous biceps), he is boycotting the gym where he previously parked himself for two to three hours a day. Instead, he is parked in a pretty official-looking office in downtown Denver, where he and his partner, Dave, preside over Headwaters MB.

Our brief foray into dog parenting didn't even last long enough to get him in the Christmas photo. " Cowboy" was an adorable two year-old Basset Hound who didn't like sharing me with Cameron. Our one other attempt at becoming pet people was my brilliant idea to have goldfish be the goody bag for Nicki's 7th birthday party, a backyard carnival. Suffice it to say, I made three trips to the pet store in the 24-hour period preceding the party and had four new friends stop speaking to me within 24 hours after the party!

I'd like to give fair time to each of this year's blockbusters, but unfortunately, I've been home with Cameron watching Barney re-runs. There is something so endearing when Cam gently takes my face in his hands, gazes into my eyes, and whispers hopefully "Watch Barney?" Mind you, this is usually at 5:20 AM. Other favorite Cam expressions include "Hit!" "Kick! ""Move!" "Cry!"and of course, "No Way!"

While we have much to be thankful for this year, we grieve for our families , friends, and fellow Americans who have touched by the tragedy of terrorism. Please join us as we pray for peace. We wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

With Love, Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kevin, Nicki, and Cam

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas 2000

To friends far, wide, east, west, new, old, worst, and best;

The year 2000 has been a real sleeper; it started out slowly but ended up a sell-out! Our low point was early January when we spent 8 days with 5 kids in 2 rooms at a Colorado Residence Inn. One day things got so bad that Phil and I had to retreat to separate rooms (with big plastic cups of wine) to call our moms! Let the house stress begin...

Our new home has a four-page punch list, a postage stamp-sized backyard, a New York style price tag and that pretentious but trendy “theatre”…a major selling point according to the kids (mind you these are people who decided on a school based on its ketchup supply!) While our oversized closet of a theatre is not up and running yet (what? why would wiring be included in the price?), life has been pretty dramatic on its own. We've been trying to come up with a title for this comedy: Nightmare On Elm Street seemed rather pessimistic: Home Alone seemed a bit optimistic (Rugrats in Denver is more like it). There's always The Money Pit, which does sum up our experience with the builder (aka The Jerk), but might be considered libelous.

When we were enticed to Denver by the great American Dream of an entrepreneurial start-up, the idea of Trading Places was irresistible (though perhaps Phil thought that Jamie Lee came with the job…). Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?- We do!! But we ran out of lifelines... an hour after we unpacked the last box, hit the credit limit on our Mastercard at EMS thanks to camping gear, ski equipment, and all the other Colorado necessities), the start-up… finished up.

Since then, Phil has been exploring the recreation industry with lots of skiing, rollerblading, and weight-lifting. We have recently updated our title to Who used to be a Millionaire. While Phil does his best not to be a Scrooge, he’d sure be happy to see something The Color Of Money! Having him around is a bit like being married to The Odd Couple- I’ve got Felix doing flow-charts to “help” me manage the breakfast, backpack, brush teeth routine, and Oscar conspiring to paint J-E-T-S-! on the children’s chests for the Christmas photo.

Kristen’s top movie pick is Drive Me Crazy (hmm does that mean me or her?) She’s like all grown up ya know…like she wasn’t thrilled about the move (uh duuhhh, moooommmm) like it was really unfair ya know, like leaving all her friends. But she’s sort of recovered, like with the mall only a mile away…that’s like, rad, ya know…Let's not even talk about the Never Been Kissed aspect...

Will quickly found his niche in Denver landing the lead role in Oliver at the local theatre. It was brilliant casting as “Please sir, I want some more” has been a signature phrase of Will’s for years! "Food, Glorious Food" has also always been a favorite of his…witness the 123 candy wrappers on his floor less than a week after Halloween. You guessed it...Willy Seefried and the Chocolate Factory.

Rookie of the Year is Kev’s favorite flick. It’s a fitting title for our little buddy. When we first told him about the move, he grabbed his head with both hands and bellowed “But New York is my life” (he was 7 at the time). Kevin has remained a stalwart Yankees fan, tho’ basking in the glory of the World Series was tough when surrounded by Rockies fans…He’s become our own rookie of the year, in less than 4 months he’s mastered rollerblading, downhill skiing, crayfish hunting and has even weathered a simultaneous sleeping bag claustrophobia attack with Phil on our first (read: last) camping trip.

There is Something About Nicki. She plays a mean game of golf, a worrisome game of doctor, and attracts friends like flies. In her terrific pre-first class, she has learned cross-stitch, sign language,, and how to cook thai food. She can ride a chair lift with the best of ‘em and even mastered the tricky technique of peeing in the dark in the woods while being held aloft by her bionic mom.

Lethal Weapon 5 is Cameron’s top pick. At 16 months, he is fast violent, and unrepentant. He loves head-banging, hair-pulling, and hitting his sibs with weapons as varied as Seseame Street videos, unopened waterbottles, and stray golf balls. They continue to adore him despite head injuries and hair loss, and have taught him the delightful phrase "Whaassuuuppp? (Phil is sure Cam has a future with Anheuser Busch). We are still waiting for him to adjust to Mountain Time as he' still awaking at 6 AM... EST!

As for me, I feel like a supporting actress in an old cowboy flick. Pack up the wagons, head west, and set up a new camp. If you'd asked me 6 months ago, I would have called it Mission Impossible, but we did it. Now we are just dealing with Sleepless in Seattle, make that Denver. My co-star, Cameron, is attached at the hip. I've mastered one armed-cooking, shopping, and cleaning even while being head-banged by the best of them. While I look forward to a future feature of Eyes Wide Shut, Phil will be disappointed to hear that it's not the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman version that I'm fantasizing about!

We have lots to be thankful for this year; welcoming new friends and loyal old ones, memorable times with our families, and the birth of a healthy son to my brother Chris and his wife. Things are still hectic, so I guess it's us, not New York, that makes life so busy...but we wouldn't have it any other way.

It's A Wonderful Life!

Peace, health, joy to you all.
Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki, and Cameron


Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas 1999

Dear Friends,

All of you who know us well may not be surprised to hear Phil’s favorite saying (a.k.a. ‘The 6 P’s) is 'Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance'. In other words, PLAN AHEAD!! To tell you the truth folks, I’ve recently been experiencing slight performance anxiety and it may have something to do with the fact that my favorite saying is more along the lines of “Drat, it’s time to go to Plan B.” So let’s call 1999 “the year of the plan” (or the year the plan went out the window) and allow me to share with you some of my finer planning moments.

We’ve had several people raise their eyebrows at our idea of responsible family planning, (in fact, you may be one of them!). Though it's hard to believe, Cam really was our own version of the ever-popular five-year plan. He was truly worth the wait. When not being smothered by his sibs, he is busy jet-setting around the country with Mom and Dad. He’s been to more places than Dr. Seuss - from the Rockies to the Boardwalk, and the Governor’s Palace to Cinderella’s castle. He sleeps 10 hours a night, smiles 10 hours a day, and flirts or feeds during the balance.

I don't blame you for questioning the planning when our oldest will hit puberty just as the youngest enters the terrible twos. But this year, we’re still in that honeymoon period where Kristen think we’re pretty close to perfect (or at least not too mortifying), and Cameron doesn’t know what a bad hair day is. Kris has really come into her own; she loves her new school and has discovered that socializing and scholarly pursuits need not be mutually exclusive. She is teetering between the tens and the teens with alternating requests to wear glitter to school and sleepers to bed.

Then there is the issue of vacation planning. What was I thinking when we went to the non-air-conditioned shore house during the worst heat wave since our wedding day? Between me being nine months pregnant and Phil putting his back out while trying to put the air conditioner in, we spent our week vacation drawing straws to be alone in the one room with air conditioning and a king size bed. The kids were thrilled to be told to “eat, drink, and be merry, just close the door quick so the cold air doesn’t leak out of our room!” WHADDAYAMEAN YA WANNA GO TO THE BEACH?? IT’S A HUNDREDDEGREESOUT!

The beach wasn’t the only thing that was hot this year…after wowing his fans as Snoopy and belting out a stirring rendition of Suppertime in a backyard production of Charlie Brown, Willie is currently rehearsing for the role of Rooster in a coming production of Annie. Like Rooster, he has a soft spot for shiny suits and an eye for an easy buck. But his taste in women is much more refined and, much to his sister’s shock, some of her friends are even asking for his number.

Then there was the holiday planning…okay, ‘fess up. Who was it? I know it was one of you. One of you told me that Thanksgiving is the perfect time to go to Disneyworld. No crowds…everyone is home with their families eating turkey. Well guess what. No one was home eating turkey with their families, they were all at Disney eating a $25 character breakfast with Mickey! And so were we.

Kevin really rocked in Disney when he conquered Space Mountain not once, but twice, despite a 103 degree fever (another example of my fondness for Plan B). Kev continues to love ketchup and hate girls, avoid showers and covet baseball cards. He’s developed a golf swing to rival Dad’s and now just needs to learn not to run to get to his next shot.

One of my personal favorites is the continually changing medical plan. As I called around early in the year seeking a pregnancy test which would involve someone else dipping the stick in the urine (I don’t like self-serve at the gas station either), I was frequently met with the ever-so-solicitous “WHATSYAPLAN ??” We continue to rely on the “PLAN” to finance the infinite refills on Nicole's asthma meds. Despite her cough, she is still better entertainment than A&E. Nicki likes to say it like it is. Last week she curled up next to Phil, waved her hand in front of her face, wrinkled her nose, and advised him “ a tic-tac wouldn’t kill ya!” Now in kindergarten, Nick has the sophistication of a fifteen year-old. Her most recent undertaking? Wedding plans. Her own. She recently informed me (in confidence) that she will be marrying the Backstreet Boys. I’ll see what I can do about getting you on the invite list.

As far as my own planning is concerned, I must confess that sleep deprivation was briefly revisited last summer. It was clear I'd hit rock bottom when I asked the kids to wait a few minutes while I went upstairs to eat the baby. I had a similar sinking sensation in my stomach when he was about two weeks old; someone asked his name, and I couldn’t remember.

As for Phil, well wouldn’t you love to know what the prince of prior preparation has planned for the millennium…

While we gear up for the year 2000, let me close by hoping that you and yours have a holiday filled with joy, and a new year filled with plans!

Love from us all,

Gretchen, Phil, Cam, Nicki, Kevin, Will, and Kris