Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Weldon Christmas Letter

Beth has for years written a Christmas letter that documents the ups and downs of the Weldon household. The mailing list has become quite large due to it's popularity so this year I thought I would post it for those that might think it was worth the read. It's a bit long but pretty funny.

The Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! All are well. Mom turned 75 and she and dad went on the QE2 for 16 days to celebrate. Dad still practices part-time and plays tennis on Monday nights occasionally. Both have some health issues but are still quite active. Alan’s family is doing well but his parents also have health issues. All 4 kids are at Episcopal and though the monthly tuition check is painful it is nice having them at the same school with many cousins and an aunt, as well as each other to keep me apprised of “relevant” (like Polly, who hates peas, donating every can of peas in the house to the food drive) developments. My boss of 16 years sold the practice and I have 2 new bosses (another veterinarian and an ICU nurse at the Mayo Clinic who is our hospital manager). Dr. Myrick’s husband took a job in Gainesville and I really miss her. There are many changes and Alan thinks I have a difficult time with change but things seem to be going well. I still work 3 days a week and do most of the surgery in the practice now. I got a new Prius hybrid (Alan says now his next truck can be a 4x 4, he wants to call it “The Global Warmer”) and an Italian greyhound pup from Kiwi’s January litter, Netty (for Planetty, the Silver Princess of Oz in continuance with the Oz naming theme). She is silver of course and the kids are trying 1 more time to train a show dog. If this doesn’t work I will be done with trying to show dogs! Alan surfs, plays tennis, works out with a personal trainer (a resolution), yogas 1-2 times weekly, and as always works too hard. He shaped surfboards for the girls (see picture) and Murph this year. He has 2 associates and rotates call once every 4th weekend with them and a classmate of ours in town. We go to all of the Jaguar home games and Alan makes many Gator games as well. He even made the National Championship game in Arizona last year. He called me from a new 24 passenger stretch limo with 2 TV’s and a pool in back to let me know that he was having a cold Corona from the limo bar and he had arrived safely, while I was waiting in my second carpool line of the day and thinking about what to fix the feral children for dinner as soon as we got home. He’s such a considerate husband! I’m afraid that he was not a nice fan and enjoyed rubbing in every Florida point to the Ohio State fans that made the mistake of celebrating after their first (and last) quick score. We sit down at the dinner table 4-5 nights a week as a family and you would not believe the conversations. We discuss everything from what to look for in a mate to the origins of the Christian-Muslim tensions to whether Disco Duck or the theme song from HR Puffinstuff is the worst song ever written (no consensus). We made our annual trek to Cumberland, which as always made everyone’s top 5 of the year list. We also took a family cruise for spring break with the Nasrallahs that went to Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya. The stingray city was very cool if a bit disconcerting (actually frightening to Mac). Polly was apprehensive at first (…it was the whole Steve Irwin thing) then Alan wiped the squid juice off of his hands on Polly’s swim suit which caused a feeding frenzy as dozens of stingrays began sucking all over her screaming body (what a Dad). Alan, Sarah, and I enjoyed the massages on the beach (Alan and I with great frozen margaritas). Sarah and Alan had hour-long back massages while I shopped. When I ran out of money I returned and asked Alan for his wallet and was reprimanded with “You’re messin’ with my Happy Place” as he handed it over, which caused a great deal of laughter by the other massage customers. Two months later, for Alan’s birthday, we spent a night and had a couple’s massage in St. Augustine, two tables and two masseuses (male and female). I immediately claimed the female masseuse and left the male for Alan. About 30 minutes into the massage my phone starts ringing in my purse and I ignore it. Alan is having the upper inner portion of his right thigh worked on and he teases me about interrupting our massage. He blurts out “ you’re messin’ with my happy place”(thinking that he will embarrass me), the startled and appalled masseuse immediately shifts his hands to work on Alan’s back. Realizing that the masseuse thought he was directing the comment at him, Alan started muttering about me, my phone, the quiet room etc until I wondered what was wrong with him. I was oblivious but laughed until I cried when Alan relayed the story to me afterwards! We spent a week at the beach this summer and finally made it to the mountains to stay with John, Erin, and their boys. Alan played tennis at least 4 times a week this summer with the kids and I probably played ½ that much in family tennis. We had some competitive tennis and Sarah learned that she loves angles and drop shots. The kids have all taken a shot at Pop in doubles but he is still undefeated in grandkid play. Alan and I went to the ACVIM meeting in Seattle this year for continuing education. I bought Alan some treats for the long flight out there including Snickers and Milky Way bars, and Milk Duds. He enjoyed his snacks and as we neared Seattle, he got up to use the restroom. He noticed that the stewardess was looking at him funny so when in the bathroom he checked the mirror for broccoli in his teeth or a booger. All looked good so he turned around and found to his profound embarrassment that some of the Milk Duds had missed his mouth and must have been sitting in his seat melting onto and into the crack of his pants for the last 1½ hours! He tried to remove the brown sticky stains to no avail. He took some toilet paper back to his seat to cover the Milk Dud mess in his seat so he wouldn’t get anymore stuck on him. That was a miscalculation because when he got up to disembark, he now had toilet paper and brown sticky stains on the back of his pants! I pressed as close behind him as I could get while trying not to laugh and attempted to shield the suspicious looking mess from view. There were no Milk Duds on the return trip. We had a great time with D.L., Eric, Patty, Robert, Anne, Will, and Ella in Seattle and there really is a Starbucks on every corner. We went to Halloween Horror nights at Universal Studios for the first time this year at the kids and cousins request. 3 out of 4 Weldon kids bailed after the first haunted house. Polly, the sole survivor insisted on walking between Alan and me with a death grip on each of our arms through all of the rest of the haunted houses. She refused to walk sandwiched with us in front and back of her. Unfortunately, the doorways are made for 1 person to walk through and with 3 across we stuck in every one! I thought I was in a 3 stooges skit. Sarah is taller than I am now and has blossomed into a really nice young lady. She rowed crew in the spring and ran cross-country again this fall (thanks to the bribe of no chores during cross country, a trip to visit cousin Cate and Aunt Connie by herself in New Hampshire, an MP3 player, and TV privileges on weekdays if all of her homework is done during cross-country season). She went to the Dominican Republic this summer on a mission trip. Unfortunately, for no apparent reason, I left Alan and Sarah in charge of the details of this trip. Sarah attended the meetings and I did not get involved until a week before the trip when it was time to pack. As I read the handout of necessities, I noticed a whole section on vaccines and malaria prevention, which needed to be started 2 weeks before leaving. When questioned, neither Alan nor Sarah knew anything about either of these recommendations (I have my suspicions about Sarah who abhors shots!) I discovered that it was too late for shots or prevention after talking to 2 travel doctors so I bought her some really strong Deet (98% it was available at the drug store so I hope it’s safer than malaria but I’m not certain) and told her to wear long sleeves and pants as much as possible and to keep the germ theory at the forefront of her thoughts. She had a wonderful experience and so far the test results for Malaria are still negative! She finished Latin last spring and all of her grades have gone up significantly without that drain on her time. She wants to go to college in the coldest place she can find (I suspect that this means as far away from us as possible). In March, Sarah was about to get her license and needed more driving hours so she drove us down to Miami to catch the cruise. We left in plenty of time so Sarah could follow all traffic laws and she did a great job until we had to stop for gas. Everyone piled out of the car and ran to the restroom while Sarah proceeded to lock the keys in the car, on a Sunday morning, in a rural area of Florida between Jacksonville and Miami. Fortunately she comes by it honestly and while Alan was pointing out that now we would miss the boat and that Sarah had ruined our vacation in a heated lecture, I went inside, procured a coat hanger and had the door open in less than 5 minutes (Alan suspects this is from my days in the Avondale Hood)! Murphy grew 4½ inches last year and put on 25 pounds. He is now taller than I am. His grades continue to be a roller coaster ride. A-B Honor roll one semester and 3 C’s the next mid-term. This means he spends much time missing TV, computer time, and outings with friends. He is actually the most likely to take up for me and berate the others for whining or making my day more difficult (he does not always recognize these weaknesses in himself however). He played JV Lacrosse, JV Soccer (even with a broken toe), ran JV cross-country this year, and is addicted to Guitar Hero (when he is not on grade restrictions). His high light this year was getting his license. My lowlight this year was Murph getting his license. I took him to get his Learner’s Permit. The test center is on a busy highway so I did not let him drive until we reached a residential street with low traffic on our way back to the beach house. I learned my lesson with Sarah (who is actually a great driver now) and had Alan take Murphy driving on several occasions this year to the corner food store, out of driveway, etc. We pulled into the convenience store and I parked so we could change places. Murphy couldn’t wait to get started but I stopped him to give some basic instructions. “Always put your foot on the brake before you put the car into gear.” A simple instruction but Murphy looked at me with a blank stare and inquired, “Which one is the brake?” I laughed and then realized that he was serious. “What do you mean which one is the brake? You’ve been driving with daddy all year!” He replied simply “Yeah but I never used the brake.” I calmed myself, sure that it would be fine and we started along the 25 mph street. As we approached the first stop sign my foot started stomping involuntarily until I realized that Murphy had no intention of stopping, then it started stomping in earnest as I screeched “STOP Murphy, didn’t you see the STOP sign, that means YOU!” “Oh” he said sheepishly “I didn’t see it.” After 2 more unseen stop signs I decided that maybe it wasn’t going to be fine. Consider yourselves warned! Polly continues to have the best sense of comical timing. While on the cruise, one of the comedians asked if anyone had sat on the airline like suction/vacuum type toilet and flushed while still on it. Up goes Polly’s hand and when he asked why she did such a crazy thing, she responded “It saves on toilet paper!” The comedian had to stop to laugh and asked if he could use that in his next show. Although she is still mostly great I see flashes of surly peevishness, which I fear portend some difficult times in the teen years ahead but they are also a comfort as it shows that she is forging her own way. She was horrified when Mac had better grades than she did after the first quarter and Alan has been teasing her about it ever since (how does it feel to B second!) She had to have a root canal in a front upper tooth right before we went to Universal and Dr.Holland was amazed that she was not in excruciating pain much sooner as the pulp was entirely dead. I didn’t tell him that the fear of Novocain shots was worse than excruciating pain for Polly. She missed cross-country practice for the first appointment and then again the next day for the root canal. The next day was cross-country JV Champs, her last meet, so the poor kid ran on ½ of a pain pill (maybe that made it easier!) She got the Celeste Hampton award for character but I think she got it for sheer guts! Avondale has a little Christmas street festival every year and this year Polly took her Italian greyhound Momo (short for Winged Monkey), up to the festival with her. Maurice Jones-Drew running back of the Jacksonville Jaguars was attending and signing autographs. Polly asked him to sign her dog (actually her dog’s sweater). He did and told Polly that Momo was the first dog that he had ever signed! Mac, what to say, always last but definitely not least. He is bright, impulsive, loves playing the computer, distractible, has lots of nosebleeds, and still likes to get in my lap when he is in the mood. He was the Nutcracker in the Fishwier play last Christmas and was Michael Jackson in Thriller in the spring production. He did a great job and was quite the cat’s meow the last month of school and was mobbed by fans at the 5th grade dance. He even had a groupie of sorts (he asked what the difference between a groupie and a girlfriend was and I explained not much in this case). If you want to see it go to Youtube and search Fishwier Thriller it’s worth the effort. He was center stage in the Episcopal talent show in a dance number and when they stepped on the chairs seat and then the top to ride them down as they exited the stage, Mac was a little behind and hurrying. He hurtled onto the chair and fell flat on his face. Before everyone could get out a gasp he leapt up and tapped danced off the stage throwing his arms wide like it was part of the show! Mac dances through life and talked 6 other boys in his class to go out for the dance troupe resulting in the largest number of boys in the dance troupe ever. He is wrestling and so far has had only 1 nosebleed. He was undefeated after his first 6 matches with only 3 weeks of wrestling but has lost his last 3 to older more experienced boys. He continues to fence and is doing great in school so far. He had a great time on the school field trip to the Keys. My final advice to him was “Be sure to get out of the shark pond if your nose starts bleeding!” We wish you all blessings. Love, Alan, Beth, Sarah, Murphy, Polly, and Mac

The Annual Ski Trip

We really don't get to do this very often but squeezed it in this year. When the kids finished their exams ( I should say I finished their exams, didn't think I would be doing Chemistry, History, Physics and Biology at this stage in my life) we bugged out for North Carolina . It's a 7 hour drive to Cataloochie and while not the best skiing it was great for the kids. All of their cousins went as well, Katie,Anna, Sally, Tucker and Meg as well as the Stiefels. We had 17 in all. What I learned.
1. Sarah is cautious 2. Murphy likes to get air 3. Polly hates wearing a helmet and 4. Mac is fearless and goes real fast. We got to ski 10-11 hours on Wednesday and nobody got hurt. we only did a 2 day trip and made it back for work on Friday. The bad thing is that since I'm such a last minute shopper it really cut into my Christmas shopping time......but it was worth it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

cloned cats glow in the dark.

I didn't believe it when i saw this, but.......seeing is believing.

A group of South Korean scientists led by Kong Il-keun, a cloning expert at Gyeongsang National University, produced three cats possessing altered fluorescence protein (RFP) genes, the Ministry of Science and Technology said. The plan is to be able to manipulate the genome so that certain genetic diseases can be eliminated. I suspect the fluorescent protein gene was added from fish that possess a similar gene but it didn't say in the report.

"This technology can be applied to clone animals suffering from the same diseases as humans," the leading scientist, Kong, told AFP.

"It will also help develop stemcell treatments," he said, noting that cats have some 250 kinds of genetic diseases that affect humans, too.

The South Koreans were discredited several years ago when one of their scientists was found cheating on his cloning studies, he is now standing trial.

The North Koreans tried to down play the South Korean results. Government Science bureau director Sum Dum Prek stated " North Korean cats glow in dark to....particularly those around the Yong bong nuclear plant"