As I sit here trying to write, staring at our crappy little, Charlie Brown, fake Christmas tree, I am beginning to fume about those over achieving bastards that see fit to make rap video Christmas cards that go viral on Facebook.
Sure, it’s clever and, sure, it’s funny but did you ever stop to think how crappy it was going to make the rest of us cheesy-photo-taking-silly-letter-writing-late-to-the-mailbox normal people feel? Yeah, I thought not.
Of course, now, I totally want to make a rap video that would totally blow your lame rap video out of the water – cause I got mad rhymes. But before I could film it I’d have to clean up my house, wash all the dishes, pick up the yard and fold the six loads of clean laundry that are on our bed (so I could pretend that I’m on top of these things all year round) and that’s just not going to happen. So I’m just going to write another Ervin Family Year End Letter and let that be enough for now.
We came SO close to going a full year and not leaving a child behind somewhere! We made it all the way to last week. We got to Isaiah’s soccer party, I dropped Brynn and the kids at the driveway, we got the wine and the team medals and everything else out of the car and we were all inside shaking hands and greeting everyone for about five minutes when Brynn says, “Where’s Anthony?”
Long story short, he had fallen asleep on the way over. I thought he had gotten out with everyone else. Brynn thought he had come in with me. So, once again, we must withdraw our names from the ballot for Parents of the Year. L
OK, on my first draft of this letter I was all set to end with the pets. But when I finally got there I realized that just can’t happen. First and foremost, it appears as though Crookshanks (the cat we thought had probably been run over the night of Brynn’s embolism) has returned from the dead! There is a semi-feral orange and white kitty that was probably living in the abandoned house across the street. Well, when that house was finally occupied, guess who started nosing around our door looking for some cat food. Brynn in convinced by his markings and his eyes that this kitty is, in fact, the long lost Crookshanks. So that is now two pets that we’ve had return after multiple years absence (For those who do not remember we had our desert tortoise Peanut return after several years away). Apparently, for our pets, living with us sucks just enough to get them to leave but is better than being out there on their own. Yes, our pets are boomerangers. We have faith, though, that they will soon get their acts together, finish college, get a damn job and start contributing to society.
Other than the amazing return of Crookshanks we also gave the “you Ervins are f’ing crazy!” crowd some additional ammunition when we decided to get Bingo a buddy. In June we headed on over to the SPCA and adopted Freckles a pit-bull/Great Dane mutt. She is a very sweet pup and, though Bingo may sometimes be super annoyed by her incessant desire to play, he has definitely lost a bunch of weight.
Other than serving as Bingo’s trainer, she has also proven a very positive influence on the people in the family. For instance she has taken it upon herself to disabuse us of our reliance on material goods by destroying just about anything in her path – shoes, toys, dishes, Isaiah’s trampoline.
She is also a remarkably athletic dog. She is capable of jumping all the way up to the top of the kid’s bunk bed. We found out the hard way that she likes to be at altitude when relieving her bowels after she dropped a couple of loads way up there.
OK, I’ll cop to it…yes, yes, yes… We Ervins are f’ing crazy. But come on! If we weren’t these letters would be SO boring.
Now that the pets are out of the way, let’s start with Anthony because it has been a pretty momentous year for the little lad. First, and most importantly (with the help of copious amounts of Red Vines) we were finally able to convince Anthony to go potty on the big boy potty! Yes, folks, after ELEVEN straight years and THOUSANDS of crap filled Huggies, Brynn and I are finally living in a diaper free household. I cannot overstate how wonderful this is.
This also means, however, that we have a full six people that, often times, need concurrent access to our two toilets. This, combined with the fact that most of the children take after me and my predilection to spending quality time on the john, has brought me to contemplate storing a stash of Depends in the hall closet. The kids thought we put passwords on the iPads to prevent them from overusing the tablets. In reality we locked them to minimize Minecraft and Netflix induced half-hour trips to the toilet.
But I digress. Beyond getting out of diapers Anthony has also moved out of mom and dad’s bed and into his very own big boy bed. Again, after ELEVEN straight years of having one child or another between us (All of them apparently studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in their sleep) Brynn and I are, again, like the first ten months of our marriage, alone in bed together.
Get your head out of the gutter.
At this point we’re appreciating the additional sleep more than anything. Though, you may be wondering, how (with one child or the other occupying our bed for the past eleven years) we were able to conceive three more children – All I can say is 1) My creativity knows no bounds and 2) That DVD player in the minivan was freakin’ brilliant.
Besides those two momentous steps that have deeply affected all of our lives, Anthony also seems to be auditioning for Kids Say The Funniest Things. The other day we were driving in the car and Brynn began to test him on the colors of the traffic lights.
“Anthony, what’s red mean?”
“Red means stop.” He answers, matter-of-factly.
“And green? What’s green mean?”
“Green means go.”
“What about yellow? What’s yellow mean?”
“Yellow means GO FASTER!” Apparently, dad’s habit of running the yellows is not lost on him.
And then, just yesterday, he was standing on the bench at the dining table and he was grabbing his crotch. Seeing this as the international symbol for ‘I gotta pee!’ I ask him if he has to go potty.
“No.” was his simple reply.
“Then why are you grabbing yourself?” I ask, more than a little perplexed.
“I just do like this so I can think!” He says as if I’M the dumb one. He was so adamant in his response that he succeeded in convincing me. So if you see me somewhere with my hand on my crotch, don’t interrupt me – I’m thinking.
OK – going in chronological order lands us on Noah Alan. Note that I refrain from the convention of using only his first name. The truth is I actually feel a little weird calling him just ‘Noah’ because about 70 percent of the time he is being called (read yelled at) by his first and middle names. ‘Noah Alan’ actually sounds more natural to me.
Anyway, Noah Alan has had a pretty cool year. At school he had the only kindergarten speaking part for the school play. He played a farm boy who was sad about all the work he had to do around the farm. The kid killed it. During his big song, he looked so forlorn you’d have thought someone just stole his puppy. I’m thinking he was method acting because he looks exactly the same way when I tell him to clean his room.
Another super cool thing happened with Noah this year while on his very first solo kayak trip this summer. I blogged about it after it happened. I’m lazy so I’m just going to copy and paste an excerpt from that blog (plagiarizing oneself is a surprisingly fulfilling experience):
Noah was so tired on our way back that the wind and current pushed him a little too close to a floating dock. He was trying to maneuver away from it when a small otter popped his head up right next to his boat and grabbed his paddle (We think that maybe the otter was trying to steal it to use as a tool for cracking open clams but we don’t know for certain what the otter was thinking). When he found he couldn’t wrestle the paddle away from Noah he ducked back into the water then popped back up at the back of Noah’s kayak and, shocking all of us, tried to climb on board! Realizing he was being boarded Noah’s face contorted with fear. “Hey! Get off!” he shouted. “Get off!” Otters, apparently do not speak English.
Brynn and I were only fifteen or twenty feet away but that was still too far away to do anything. I was trying to figure out how to intervene without knocking Noah into the water when a guided kayak tour just happened to be passing by. The tour guide shouted at Noah, “Just splash that naughty otter with water! He’ll go away!”
With all the vigor of a young man who has spent his life turning every stick he finds into a light saber, Padawan Noah hacked at the water with his paddle sending Darth Otter back into the water, only to have him come up to the front of his boat and try to board there. This otter was obviously very strong with the dark side. Now starting to panic, Noah reeled back with his paddle and swung at the water again. But this time he missed the water and caught the otter square on the head. This time Darth Otter did not come back and my guess is he will not attempt to board another kayak in the future.
So, I guess that brings us to Isaiah. Like many eight to nine year old boys, Isaiah has taken to annoying his parents for the purposes of humor. His favorite trick – To stare over mom’s shoulder while she is reading something. Here’s a typical exchange:
Brynn – “Would you please move?”
Isaiah moves about an inch away and giggles.
Brynn – “Move your butt and don’t read over my shoulder!”
He giggles some more.
Brynn backhands him upside the head ala Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
“Ow!” He chuckles. “Why’d you hit me?” He laughs after finally getting the reaction he was looking for. I have a premonition that, one of these days, Brynn’s gonna accidently catch him with that diamond ring she wears and he’s not gonna be laughing at the end to the exchange.
Other than his eight-year-old-boy sense of humor he is a pretty remarkable kid. His soccer season got off to a rough start when he failed to make the ‘Signature’ team. It turns out that the guy helping people sign in at the tryouts had me sign him in for the wrong age group. I was proud of the way he dealt with the disappointment though. He just kept on truckin’ and proved to be one of the best players in his league this past season. He also continues to do great in school not only finishing his own daily plans every day but helping other kids get theirs done as well. Like I said – a pretty remarkable kid.
Now on to my beautiful Grace. She is quickly becoming that terrifying creature that is the bane of father’s everywhere – the adolescent girl. Honestly, she’s not that bad yet but we have had our share of inexplicable mood swings and overreactions to minor provocations. Fortunately, in the course of my years, I’ve had to deal with a pregnant wife four times. So, I have 40 months of training in the art of dealing with, shall we say, the hormonally challenged. Rule number one – Hide.
Grace continues to impress just about everyone with her acting and stage presence. In school, last year, she was a presenter of her class’s science project. The project made it all the way to the State Final in no small part due to her charming presentations. Furthermore, in her school play “1776” she showed her chops by playing the antagonist Edward Rutledge. I was amazed by her acting – An eleven year old So Cal girl playing an acerbic southern gentleman is quite a stretch and she did it with aplomb.
Grace also continues to kick butt in school. She started the year having some problems with spelling. She seems to have inherited her Mom’s and Auntie Alisa’s difficulty with that discipline. She was frustrated to the point of tears. Brynn and I explained to her that we all have weaknesses and things that we are not good at and that just means that we have to focus on those areas a bit more. She took that lesson to heart and after some serious focus and studying she got her first 100%! She’s on a five spelling test streak right now and I am intensely proud. She took that weakness and OWNED it turning it into a strength for her.
Unfortunately, like her brother, Grace has had her share of disappointment this year too. This spring she failed to make it into “Rep” which is a local Children’s Repertory Theatre. It broke our hearts when she got the letter but my Amazing Grace handled it like a champ. I went for a walk with her and explained that one ever-so-difficult life lesson; it’s not how many times we get knocked down that defines us but how many times we get back up. True to her tenacious nature she got right back up. In truth, despite all of her wonderful accomplishments this year, it is how she handled this disappointment that makes me most proud of her. If I have any lesson I want my children to learn from me about life it’s to not be afraid to fail. When we become afraid to fail, we become afraid to try. When we become afraid to try, we fail without effort. Grace, at the age of 11, showed the strength and fortitude that will certainly make her a success at any endeavor she chooses.
Brynn continues to amaze me and just about everybody else. She’s moved on from working out at the St. Jude brain injury gym but she continues to get her exercise at the local YMCA doing water Zumba and aerobics. All her hard work has paid off and she looks fantastic if I do say so myself. On top of that, just yesterday she was put on a normal six month checkup schedule with her doctor. Ironically, only hours after bragging to her doctor about how she hadn’t fallen in a long time, she got her walker tangled between the dustpan and the new dog and ended up doing a belly flop on the kitchen floor. Fortunately, I was in the house when it happened. Unfortunately, I was on the john so my response time was less than stellar. Fortunately all she suffered was some bruised arms and a bruised ego. Unfortunately, I was reminded of how important it remains that I be close to home as often as possible.
Speaking of being close to home, for those of you that don’t know, I was ‘let go’ from my position at Vironex in April. It was a devastating blow to me and our family and, to this day, I’m struggling to understand the decision. It was certainly true that I was not the same employee that I had been prior to Brynn’s illness. Travel was much more difficult for me as were the very long hours, but I did try to be productive for the company. I even invented and led the development of a tool that the company is now patenting. But a couple of weeks after getting into a fender bender (yeah, it was my fault) in San Francisco, I was let go. Whatever the reasons, it’s been a difficult time. I’ve spent seven years on a career path, the experience of which doesn’t transfer well to other jobs.
In an effort to create a career speaking and writing, Brynn and I made a real run at trying to market the book and ourselves as speakers. We paid a good chunk of change to a PR firm to get us some radio interviews. The interviews went great but they did not, unfortunately, translate to book sales or speaking engagements. The few speaking engagements that we have had were awesome and we received very positive feedback, but our attempts to book additional engagements have proved fruitless.
The silver lining of this very grey cloud has been that I have had a lot of time to spend with my family. I’ve been able to coach my boys in soccer, take my kids and wife kayaking in some awesome places, drive out to Joshua tree on a whim to watch the perseids, spend quiet afternoons alone with my wife, take my kids for morning walks and more. Fortunately, I understand that time is the only thing we cannot make more of and I am incredibly thankful for all this time I have had. That being said, I’ve got a mortgage to pay so if you know anyone who is hiring shoot me an email.
Once again, we come to the close of a year that has been chalk full of ups and downs and once again we are incredibly blessed to be able to share all of it with all of you. Thank you for being there for us and thank you for all of your love, friendship and support in 2013.
We love you all,
The Ervins – Brynn, Kyle, Grace, Isaiah, Noah, Anthony, Bingo, Mixie, Freckles and Crookshanks