This was Big Apple month for Bonnie, Sandra, and Anne who spent five days in New York. They had the greatest time ever. Sites and shows. For Christmas I got Bonnie very nice perfume and the kids pitched in to buy her a pneumatic nail driver. She loved the nail driver. We followed up with the annual trek and gathering at Perry's Ocean Edge Resort in Daytona Beach. Fun times. On December 31st, however, we were very saddened by the loss of Bonnie's Mom, Claire, who had been recovering from pneumonia and doing well, all things considered, but took a sudden turn for the worse. Grandma always took my side with Bonnie ("What a wonderful man he is"), mostly when I didn't deserve it, and for this and many, many other reasons her passing leaves a big hole in all our hearts.
How many grand children do we have. Two? Nope, five!!!! Karen had three healthy babies on November 8th: Braden, Daylin, and Skyler. What a life-changing experience – changing, changing, changing. And then there is feeding, feeding, feeding – just in time to start the cycle anew. The Braden Clan were there at the hospital: Bonnie, me, Sandra, Anne, Robert, and my Mom. I hung through the first weekend and then Stetson duties called. Bonnie was there for the first week or so. I remember back when Bonnie and I brought Karen home from the hospital and it was a 24-7 effort that we barely survived. Multiply that by three!!
As if she needed encouragement ... Bonnie got this 560 page hard-bound book from Home Depot titled "Home Improvement 1-2-3." (In case you might have forgotten, if you want to keep Bonnie happy, forget the dozen red roses; just bring home a reciprocating saw or some other outrageous tool for her to play with.) Well, that book dictated the demise of all free time for the month, as she decided to remodel four rooms - simultaeously. Since she could anticipate my reaction to such a plan, she employed a tactic used before, as in starting all four while I am at work, so I arrive home to find the house looking like Day Two on Xtreme Home Makeover. Bonnie understands that if I'm given a choice between living in a construction zone, or scrambling to help get the work done to reinstate good order and discipline (from my military background) I can be counted upon to pitch in. Actually she did most of the work, but we now have two newly painted bedrooms and two redone baths with new lights and towel racks. And another notch on Bonnie's carpenter belt. Oh, by the way, we did get to slip away for a long weekend with the grandkids at Orlando's Nickelodeon Family Suites Hotel, mostly known as the Nick Hotel. A great place for Savanah and Seth.
Well, the good news about September is that football is in the air. (Actually Tampa Bay Devils Rays baseball is also still in the air, and that's where you might be getting that unpleasant odor.) Since Bonnie is no longer teaching Wee Care, she is back with her weekly tennis and her doubles team is undefeated for the month. Jay's program with virtual schooling is busy with fall registrations. Anne has most of her kindergarten students adapted to schooling.
Back to school for Anne and back to breaking in nearly 20 kids into the world of education that they'll get to experience for the next 12 or more years. First grade for Savanah, who had a hard time of it to begin with because of the long days compared to her previous half-day schedule, but she now loves it. And Seth is the star of his class so all is well there. Sandra, Anne, and Bonnie helped throw a shower for Karen, and that was a fun event. Sandra is no longer teaching at Wee Care (nor Bonnie) so Sandra is helping work on the school's curriculum. Robert is back with CCF at Georgia Tech, training interns and continuing his intramural sports skills. Bonnie and I continue to spend a couple of Saturday mornings each month at Steppin Stone Farm giving volleyball clinics to the girls there.
Robert returned from his trip in England and went back to Georgia Tech CCF to train up the new interns; the balance of the family got away for five days at Redington Beach for some relaxing times. Bonnie and I spent some time working in the yard, seeing if we can win the fight against weeds and bugs. So far we are losing bad. When we pull into Kerby's Nursery, the owner sees us and calls his travel agent saying that it looks like he will be able to take that trip to Jamaica after all.
June was baby month in the clan, with Sandra anouncing that she and Steve were about to have an addition to the family, and Karen announcing the December arrival of triplets. Robert was on his trip to England and doing well there. Anne was enjoying her summer and making some spending money by tutoring and working a Beef O'Brady's. Jay and Bonnie continued with volleyball a few nights a week.
Getting close to the end of the school year for Anne, Sandra, and Bonnie. This is also the month Robert goes for ministry training in Indianapolis followed by a trip to England to scout out a site in Birmingham.
Tax time. This year we agreed to forego our annual experience in meeting new people at 11:50 p.m. at the Tampa Post Office. At Bonnie's urging, we bought Turbo TaxTM and got our taxes in a full day early!!! Rejoice, rejoice. We also kept up our volleyball, playing mostly three times a week. Now if we could just play better.
We must have done some work this month, but somehow all that remains in memory is the Plant City Strawberry Festival and our seven-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean on the ship Mariner of the Seas. We also began some work on assembling photos and other data for our Family Album.
Jay's Virtual School duties took him - and Bonnie, of course - to Boston for another Association for the Advancement of International Education conference. In addition to recruiting students for the Stetson University Virtual School, we made some time to taste the seafood and see the sights. This month I did want to highlight Bonnie's checklist for departures from our home. The checklist includes shutting off any running water; ensuring the stove, oven, and iron are off, making sure the doors are all locked, and unplugging or switching off any appliances that need not be running while we are gone. It's a great list, with only one small problem.
We begin the New Year counting our blessings. We lost both good friend Charles Wright and Bonnie's Brother Steve Dunn this month. These events occasioned the meeting of friends in Tallahasse (for Charles Wright) and of family (for Steve Dunn) in Killen, Texas. Both of these men wre truly loved and will be very much missed by those who knew them.