Happy winter solstice! Up here in our easterly corner of the country we are certainly aware of the days getting shorter. And yet, we’ve probably eaten dinner at our own house for three of the last seven days, so there’s been a lot of merry making with friends as darkness settles around us.
first house just a few lots up the road from where we were renting. The house is beautiful—full of windows and light and with a very open lay out, which suits us. It’s been fun to sink nails into the walls and finally to put up our art from Tanzania, India, Nepal, the Everglades, France, and our other homes around the globe. We have great neighbors and are tucked into land trust woods. More important than the physical house perhaps are the other aspects that make Orono feel like a good home: nice friends in and around Orono; a wonderful preschool with gifted teachers; a lovely new yoga studio/community in our downtown; a supportive academic ethos on campus; and the knowledge that we live in a state that passed gay marriage by popular vote!
Here are a few updates for each of us, starting with our most junior member:
REIDReid, now rapidly approaching three years, reminds friends and strangers that he is a “big guy.” Though he’s still a cute two-year old with his curly hair and a nice round belly, we certainly don’t argue with the fellow about his size—very little about Reid at the moment is apologetic or small. When he walks into a room (say, story hour, preschool, a party packed with kids), he strides right into the middle of the action, often talking. At home, Reid can be found trotting around bare bottomed on his stick horse, announcing he is Chuck Yeager (one learns or at least parrots interesting factoids with an older brother available to imitate). At two years, Reid’s interests include music and dancing (his Uncle Bri and Aunt Anna got him dancing to Korean pop tunes when they visited), cooking (he often helps with dinner—knife, cutting board, and all), pretend play, and anything to do with his brother (whose judgment he considers decidedly more reliable than that of his parents). This last semester, Reid made his first foray into preschool for a couple mornings a week and he really enjoyed himself. At night, we sneak into Reid’s room, peek at his footy-pajamaed body through the mesh of the tent he is currently calling a bed, get a whiff of his lovely baby smell, and quietly enjoy the fact that he is, in fact, still a pretty small guy.
Liam (AKA Lemur Dreamer) certainly is a dreamer. He’s our theory guy--a man of ideas, words and stories. If you catch Liam in a down moment, he’s often whispering words to himself (the Russian name of the latest supersonic jet he’s looked up; a line from his favorite young detective book on CD, said with the same quirky accent used by the reader; or a phrase from one of the French movies we’ve started watching at lunchtime). Liam fell in love with his afternoon pre-K class this semester: an intimate group of ten kids and an amazingly generous and gifted teacher. Apparently his teacher learned that if she asked Liam to write a story with her, he wasn’t particularly interested. If she asked him to write a play to be acted out at group time, he was always game. So, Liam wrote several plays. Liam’s teacher also reported that the girls in his class are dying to know who Liam’s favorite friend is. His consistent answer: “I like all of you.” He is a gentle, kind fellow. Liam fell in love with swimming this summer and often swam twice every day--once in the town pool and once in the river, always with his orange goggles. On the home front, Liam keeps himself busy by perusing library books (he’s on the cusp of reading), churning out drawings (generally of aircraft), building things out of found objects and junk (the latest creations have included a cardboard swing-wing airplane and a superhero-styled head band made out of a broken bike helmet); and trying to figure out that tricky balance between how to enjoy and how to stand up for one’s rights with a very self-assured two-year-old brother.
Tim is thriving in his job at the university. This fall semester he taught an undergraduate sustainable development class and a graduate modeling class, both of which went well. When he’s not teaching, he’s writing grants and moving research projects down the assembly line to publication on subjects ranging from a novel lexicon for sequential analysis of Tamil Kolam patterns for a Japanese academic journal of design, to an article on the utility of mathematical modeling for a state legislature policy publication, to a cross cultural project examining sharing and social preferences across six societies (India, Bhutan, Germany, Tanzania, China, US). Tim has built himself a lab of four graduate students and he’s enjoying mentoring them on their dissertations and working with them on shared research. Among trips he made this last year for work was a conference in the Virgin Islands—this included a weekend exploration of St. John island, which he had last visited at age 5 (is that right, Mom and Dad?). Tim continues to commute the nearly two miles to work on foot, and often either runs home with his backpack thumping behind him, or in the summer months he swims right across the Stillwater River.
Katie continues to parent full time and squeezes in two hours every day to nudge her writing along. Her first book, A Girl Called Problem, a novel for teens set in Tanzania, is finally due out this April. We’ll certainly let you know when that happens, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the cover. During Reid’s nap time, Katie practices yoga and still toys with the idea of teaching it part time once the kids are in school. She considered an offer to teach a writing-and-reading-based class in the Honors College on campus this last fall, but decided to give time at home with kids at least another year. A highlight of this last year for Katie was taking a trip with her mom back to Paris (Katie studied there for a year, 15 years ago). Katie and Sally rode bikes and walked all over the city, cheering Tour de France cyclists on the Champs Elysees, revisiting the beautiful Musee d’Orsay, walking along the city-constructed sand beaches of Paris Plages on the banks of the Seine at night, eating fabulous food, and generally soaking up all that is Paris. Tim’s parents, Topher and Marie, were generous to pitch in on the home front to keep Tim company through his stint of solo parenting.
Other highlights of the year have included celebrating with the extended Quirk clan the life of Katie’s grandmother, Maggie, who passed away at the age of 99; visiting with friends in Tim’s old stomping grounds of Lake Worth, Florida, over our last spring break; celebrating Obama’s reelection; catching up with friends at a defacto high school reunion for Katie during the wedding of one of her old classmates in Spokane; and meeting up with Vermont family friends at Tim’s grandmother’s cabin in New Hampshire. We also feel very fortunate to have such wonderful parents and siblings and to see them as often as we do. If only we had a portal to India and Tanzania to see our friends there.
Part of what we love about our new house is the guest room—please come visit us. If you think you might be interested in vacationing in Maine, let us know and we’ll send you a list of seasonally appropriate propaganda for why you should come see us.
With wishes for peace and laughter in the new year, we send you our love.
Katie, Tim, Liam and Reid