Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The much anticipated -Annual Weldon Christmas letter 2013

 After Thanksgiving it’s time to count our many blessings. All kids are doing well and all grandparents are still kicking. We lost our access to Cumberland but enjoyed our last few visits. We spent New Years at the beach with the annual tree burnings. We took 2 cruises (at least some of us did). We went to St. Louis twice, Seattle, Cumberland, the beach, Halloween Horror nights, and St. Augustine. We had lots of visits from friends and family and Will, Charlie, and Sam even made a road trip down for a visit and had some fun at Universal with the cousins. We cruised to Jamaica last December with Polly, Murphy, and niece Katie. Somehow we all got hoodwinked into buying Tiki dolls after climbing Dunn’s River falls (even Murph who is still scratching his head trying to figure out how he got dragged in when he specifically told them he had no money, pointed me out, and gave them my name to try to distract them from hounding him). I do not usually have trouble saying no but these were the most persistent vendors I have ever run across and even I felt bad declining  when they had already carved my name in one. After purchasing said Tiki dolls, several incidents made us wonder (drops on toes, poor TV reception when they were near, cancelled excursions, etc.) if they might be cursed but we were too afraid to destroy them! We are down to 2 cats, 5 Italian greyhounds (at this writing Mishka, Dani’s IG has another broken leg just like last year at this time but the other front leg), a crazy lab, and 3 canaries, an all time low for us. I am going to get chickens when the permits are available. We lost the Tritt’s as neighbors this year but luckily they will always be family. We have 2 large houses being built on the lot next door and it is a bit of a trial with construction and people frequently blocking the road. If anyone is looking to move, it’s a great area and the neighbors (at least across the street) are wonderful!

Alan is an adjunct professor at UF and has vet students go through his practice for their medicine rotation. He joined the admissions committee for the vet school as well. He hired a new associate and has a 4 vet practice. He is active at church and helps with the A/V every Sunday as well as serving on the session and the Denominational Steering committee. Alan is instrumental in the Van Cleve haunted house and outdid himself again this year with the super soldier gone horribly wrong theme. Alan plays team USTA tennis, surfs, revels, and works out. He has become the Paleo diet guru encouraging grass fed eggs (hence the imminent chickens), butter, and meat and organic milk etc. We are mostly gluten free at home with lots of whole foods (things that remember being in the ground or water, on the bush or tree, or on the hoof/claw with no additives).  He weighs less than he did when we got married and Murph was lamenting the fact that Alan’s abs are better than his despite his youth and 100 sit-ups every night. Alan smugly pointed out that six pack abs are made in the kitchen not in the gym! He has stopped taking Lipitor (and his cholesterol is lower) and feels that his mental acuity is greatly improved. He remembers details from classes in vet school and prides himself on recalling more than his students can! Though his memory may be improved, his gracefulness is not, while escorting Polly to the stage to be crowned queen of Revellers in February she came to a sudden and jarring halt almost doing a full face plant when he stood on her train! He claimed the lights got in his eyes. I think he may have been over served! While on the Mexico cruise we were all sitting on deck having a cocktail hour when a flying bug landed on Alan’s foot. Before he could gather his wits and shoo it away, it keeled over dead! There was a lively discussion after that about how toxic Alan must be to kill a bug without even touching it no matter how healthy his diet. Alan took Sarah and Polly to the homecoming game last month and they had to watch the Gators lose to Vanderbilt at home for the first time since 1945, made me glad Mac and I were visiting the Coast Guard Academy and Margaret at Yale (Alan insisted we go take pictures of the skull and bones society building)! Alan and Mac are sharing a new Lab pup named River. She is VERY high energy but Alan has been taking her to be trained for Field Trials. She has done very well after getting sent home from puppy camp the first week because she was a “barky butt”! Since then she has been to 2 trials and has achieved her Hunter Retriever Title. She is awfully smart for a goofy dog. This summer while Polly was working on the computer, River came up to her with a framed picture of 2 ducks in her mouth and dropped it because she wanted to play fetch!

I do NOT weigh what I did when we got married (but I am not totally gluten free). I still work 3 days a week at Merrill Animal Clinic with a wonderful group of co-workers and enjoy my profession. Parkway Animal Hospital (where I worked for 22 years and was still doing surgeries once a month) closed and I miss seeing everyone from there. I have been gardening and harvested lots (or in some cases a few)of blueberries, blackberries, green beans, potatoes, herbs, oranges, lemons, peppers, spinach, cabbage, kale, romaine, lima beans, nectarines, peaches, and onions. I still read a lot and try to spend some quality time with Alan. We went to Seattle for the ACVIM meeting and enjoyed seeing everyone there. We went to several concerts in St. Augustine and saw the legendary Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis for Sarah’s graduation. He’s amazing if a bit off of his game these days as he just turned 87 and played Nadine 3 times in a row (luckily  I like that song)! Alan says that is what happens if you eat wheat and take Lipitor. We also visited St. Louis for Connie’s 70th birthday and as always enjoyed seeing everyone. Alan reminds me to mention our “quality time” couple’s colonoscopy because nothing shouts romance like tandem colonoscopies! I am starting to wonder about Alan’s sensibilities. Earlier this year we were sniping at each other one evening and when I got home the next day, I checked my e-mail only to discover that somehow I had been signed up to receive 3 menopause monthly letters. I might have been annoyed if I hadn’t been laughing so much at the vintage Alan move (and the fact that I knew he was actually trying to be helpful!)

Sarah graduated from Wash U in St. Louis and is waiting to hear about Occupational therapy school (hopefully at UF). In the meantime, she is working mornings as a receptionist at Merrill filling in for the three pregnant receptionists going out and in (which is what got them pregnant in the first place) every 6 weeks. She is taking classes, working 3 days a week nannying afternoons, volunteering with occupational therapists at Wolfsons Children’s Hospital, and last but in my opinion most impressively, (and with the patience of Job) helping my parents as often as they can snag her with techno problems (dad has called her 3 separate times, once at work, to help him get his phone off of airplane mode!) She does odd jobs, house, baby, and dog sitting and has made enough to almost pay off her new car of 4 months as well as starting on her student loans. She got a 2003 white and tan convertible mustang with about 80,000 miles on it. She says that she has always wanted a pony and is very thankful she finally got one! I was not happy about the convertible part but she loves it and Alan pointed out that he had one at about that age (which is why I am worried). Sarah went on a Bahamas cruise after graduation with a Wash U. friend and Dani (who was apparently the sane and sober influence!)  We took a family cruise to Mexico and Grand Cayman with everyone in August so that everyone but Dani (she joined the game too late) has Platinum status on Carnival, “the Greyhound of the Seas”. Sarah and Alan got their concealed weapons permits together (good daddy-daughter bonding time?). While Alan wore his Infidel (in Arabic and English) shirt, she took the class in her Peace, Love, and Joy t-shirt! She spent almost 2 months travelling through Europe this summer with Anna, and Alan said it was Sarah and Anna’s Excellent Adventure. Sarah, Mac, and Polly have been discussing a road trip to Comicon (basically a giant nerd convention) in California for years. When they found out that Dragoncon (a little smaller nerd convention) in Atlanta had John Barrowman and most of the Star Trek cast there they decided to attend over Labor Day. They had a wonderful time and I ponied up for a photo with Shatner (who now looks more like Jabba the Hutt than Captain Kirk)!

Dani is graduating in less than 2 weeks majoring in Psychology with an Accounting minor from UF and is planning to start accounting graduate school at UF this fall. She has been doing very well in her classes and her research methods paper was used on-line as an example of the best paper the professor had ever read. She brought her date (a model) to her birthday dinner in June and we all liked him a lot but Dani couldn’t make up her mind. She is more focused on her studies. Polly volunteered to step up to the plate if Dani is done. While on our cruise this summer, I was walking along after lunch shopping with Dani and Sarah and minding my own business when a man ran out of a shop and grabbed me and started going on about taking good care of me and being a good son-in-law. Before I could knock him out with my 13 pound purse (I actually weighed it once), Dani explained that he had dragged her into his store earlier, told her she would be his wife and then gave Sarah and her free jewelry and told her to bring her parents back to seal the deal! Despite this generous offer, she is planning on living in Jacksonville after graduation until school starts so she can save some money for a car like Sarah.  It will be nice to have Dani, Sarah, and Mac all living at home.

Murph is a junior at UNF majoring in business. He lives off campus and I suspect plays too many video games. He has finally decided to take school seriously and is doing much better at it. He goes to most Jaguar games except if he needs to study (which is how I know he is taking school a bit more seriously)! The kids used to eat a lot of pasta and now that Alan has declared grain to be Satan’s excrement, I pulled all of the pasta out of the cabinets and sent it with Murph to school (he is most definitely not grain free). Last time I drove out to take him grocery shopping, he presented me with a box of mac and cheese dated 2004 that he thought I might want to keep it since I had had it almost as long as our 10 year old dogs (shades of my mother)! I was just thankful that it was the only one after going through my cabinets. Murphy turned 21 this year and celebrated at midnight on his birthday with Alan and an a 21 year old bourbon at Mojos. Murph is my techno kid and when we went on the cruise this summer, the power went out on the ship before we had even gotten under way. A distressed Murph immediately knocked on our cabin door and regaled us with video and text descriptions of other Carnival power problems involving water rushing down the hallways and feces floating out of bathrooms (I must say the new iphone retina display is quite vivid)! There has been some heavy betting about Murph’s’ 1997 green Chevy truck with 265,000 miles and whether or not it will see the new year. It died 3 weeks ago and we looked into getting another vehicle for Murph but the mechanic is so fond of this truck (I think it paid for his wife’s’ new car) that he offered to rebuild the transmission for only $1000 (which Alan thinks is less than what we will get in trade-in for the truck “if” it is running). So the green truck was brought back from the dead and Murph now calls it Lazarus or the zombie truck. (Have you noticed the” I need a car” theme from the first 3 kids yet?)

Polly is in her second year at FSU (she timed that right for football!) but is already a junior. She plans to apply to vet school next year but probably will not get in her first try and will take her full 4 years at FSU. Polly worked at Parkway for 4 years and then started working at Merrill this summer. Dr Woods was wondering if the entire Weldon clan was on the payroll since Murph did some painting there and Alan does Ultrasounds for us! He has to hire Dani and Mac if he wants the whole family! Polly does Cuong-Nhu and is up to her green belt. She volunteers at the wolf preserve and gets great photos with wolves, groundhogs, skunks, and foxes. She was there Halloween weekend and was assigned to the fox enclosure.  After the 3rd enquiry of “What does the fox say?” she started deadpanning into “interesting that you should ask, foxes actually make over 30 different vocalizations. They yip, growl, bark, whine, chatter, chirp, cry, purr, huff, cough, cluck, scream, howl, shriek, hoot, gekker, etc.” she would stop when their eyes glazed over. Polly seems to collect an unusual array of young men (the maybe vegetarian Buddhist, the painfully shy Yankee, and the introspective young writer who named her in a 3 page blog discussion about whether or not she was his possible soul mate and if he should make the effort to ask her out since he would graduate in a year and leave Florida) none of whom interest her romantically. She got a hangnail this summer and got such a bad infection that she had to have her nail pierced and the doctor put her on antibiotics. The 3rd day on antibiotics her face swelled like she had been in a prize fight due to a drug reaction. On her way home from the doctor after her second visit and an antibiotic change, she was holding her arm up straight  with the3rd finger extended to minimize the excruciating, pounding pain from swelling and infection when she happened to look at the car next to her and saw a shocked looking man staring at her throbbing up-raised bird finger! Polly is such a nerd that when she took a sci fi class with almost 300 other nerds in it at FSU, she was the only person in class to get the Darmok reference (Alan says if you get this, the next statement applies to you as well!) While her professor was impressed, the friend next to her commented (from one nerd to another) “You really should get out more.” One of Polly’s highlights was a guest lecture by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the Stephen Hawking of her time according to Polly). A friend held a spot in line for her for 3 hours because she was in class and they were on the second row. When he opened the floor to questions Polly got to ask “if you had to pick a fantasy world to live in which one would it be?” He loved the question and when she got in line to get her book autographed they started chatting and his people finally had to shoo her away so others could get their books signed (She claimed a similar incident occurred with Brent Spiner in Atlanta). Polly was ecstatic!

Mac is a senior at Episcopal and it is amazing how much easier open house and teacher conferences are with one as opposed to four kids. Mac started the Model United Nations at Episcopal last year with his home room teacher and he and a small but devoted core have been participating in activities and doing fairly well for a new group. He loves politics and history and enacted the role of Stalin in 1939 discussing the invasion of Poland by Germany last month at the Old City MUN conference. Mac’s Episcopal team placed 5th out of 40 at the Academic World quest without ever having practiced. Mac played spring football with Mark Brunell (best Jaguars quarterback ever and now coach of the Episcopal Eagles!) but decided he wanted to run cross country in the fall before wrestling. He got the Coaches Award last year for wrestling and is team captain again and may have a chance of going to state if he can ever get over the mystery rash that has been plaguing him the last 2+ weeks. In one of his early matches he was about to pin his opponent when he noticed the photographer for the yearbook. He held his opponent in place, mugged for the camera, and then finished pinning him after several prime shots! I berated him afterwards and asked how he would feel; he responded that he would not be on his back so it would not be a problem (vintage Mac and shades of Alan). Mac humored me and went to visit the Coast Guard Academy last month for the Science, Technology, Engineering Program. He actually enjoyed the program and created a homemade flashlight with LED lights, a battery, and solder. Mac wondered if it was ok to take home as we only had carry on bags and I assured him that the Coast Guard would have warned him if it was a problem. When we arrived at the airport, homeland security was not amused, turns out batteries and wires are pretty much what they look for at those screenings! Fortunately, Macs’ Coast Guard info packet was right under the suspicious “device” and they believed us after a thorough investigation (Alan says it was not thorough because there was no cavity search but he was just disgruntled because he felt like he had just had one thanks to the Homecoming loss). I asked Mac if there had been two projects and they assigned different students different ones, if so, his chances for getting in do not look good! Mac apparently checked a box on the SAT form that colleges could “contact” (insert send more junk mail than I have ever seen) him and he has been inundated. No telling where he will end up. I hope Coast Guard because I think Mac will want at least 3 degrees and better he get paid by someone else to attend school than a Weldon footing that bill! Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays from Alan, Beth, Sarah, Dani, Murphy, Polly, and Mac! We have been truly blessed!