Dear Family and Friends,
In the spirit of positive thinking, let’s call this an early digital valentine, rather than a way-too-late holiday letter. Thanks to all of you who wrote to us and sent pictures in December and beyond. What a treat it was to receive your news and to get glimpses of your year’s activities.
2014 was kind to the Quirk-Waring clan. It might best be referred to as the year of brotherly love (though we have no desire to suggest that said brotherly love should come to a halt in 2015). This was the first full year that Liam was away at full-time school, and perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, or the developmental gap between Liam and Reid simply narrowed.
Whatever it was, they clocked hours of wonderful play together: designing costumes for themselves and their stuffed animals; jumping from bed to bed over a moving light saber gauntlet; building forts out of our rarely-sat-upon couches; playing games like battleship, backgammon and apparently chess; climbing the white pine at the end of the driveway, which in that case is not a tree at all but their “airplane;” chasing their tireless summer teenage babysitters, Elsa and Katie, in a game they invented called “kowabunga;” and building their own new superheroes like Crow and Hawk out of Legos.
Often, their conversations read like this:
“Pretend that …”
“Okay, and pretend I …”
“Yeah, but you pretend …”
You see, it’s all about pretend.
The two of them even took to sleeping together starting last spring, which turned out to be the perfect medicine for Reid's bad dreams. This, after our parental attempts at elaborate nighttime shaman-ry, including the dream catcher that only lets good dreams slip through its tight weave and the Sri Lankan wall-mounted demon who, according to family lore, wakes up in the night to guard the house. The brother solution has been a much greater success.
Reid (A.K.A. Beedo)
Another summer developmental milestone for Reid was graduating from commuting around town in the bike buggy at the back of the family bike-train to pedaling the tandem style "attachment bike" behind Katie. He is now completely hooked on biking, and most recently could be seen pedaling home from school in January, only now with his ski helmet and goggles.
Speaking of skiing, Reid is now a downhill and cross country skier. We were afraid the thrill of dangerously snow plowing down the mountain at top speed would kill his interest in cross country skiing, but it hasn’t. He doggedly clocks up to three miles, Nordic style, and recently commented on a cold night ski in the woods: “I love cross country skiing. It’s so peaceful.”
On the school front, this academic year, Reid is fortunate enough to attend two wonderful half-day pre-K programs: a couple of hours at the public school, an extended lunch hour and bike or walk commute home with Katie, and then afternoons at our family’s beloved lab-based preschool, Merrill Hall.
Liam (A.K.A. Lemur or Dreams)
Liam, now 7, is also in a delightful stage of life. This marked his first full year of playing the piano. A year ago, when Liam’s piano recital was snowed out after he had been in lessons for only a couple of months, he was greatly relieved. But since then, with hours of practice under his belt, which included getting quite proficient at playing songs he chose himself like “Cruella da Ville,” “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Theme Song,” and “Over the River and Through the Woods,” Liam was pleased to perform in a recital this fall.
With Reid graduating to the attachment bike behind Katie’s set of wheels, Liam got bumped to his own separate bike. Katie secretly dreaded this development, simply because she feared this would bring their steady commute speed to a near halt, but instead we invested in a larger set of wheels and some gears for the boy at the annual second-hand bike swap, and somehow our slow-moving fellow keeps right up, doing a—mostly—impressive job of navigating traffic and turns.
Liam remains a good swimmer and cross-country skier—last winter, he skied several-mile trips around Acadia, and this summer, there seemed not to be a day when he wasn’t swimming somewhere, whether in the river at the bottom of our road or in the public pool. Liam also loved playing town farm-league baseball (his team wore rip-off Red Sox jerseys) and soccer, skating on frozen ponds, and downhill skiing (the critical move to teach here was how to fall and within a day all the other skills miraculously followed).
Perhaps more than any sport, Liam has taken off with his art in the last year. We parents refer to his desk as his “station,” and Liam can often be found there lost in his thoughts, drawing Wolverine with colorful permanent pens, snipping and stapling together an Obi-Wan Kenobi felt costume for his stuffed lizard or a Batman costume for Reid’s stuffed dog, folding an origami piano, or making paper katana swords.
Katie and Tim
In spite of our best attempts, we grownups are decidedly less dynamic and creative than our young counterparts. Tim continues to be hard at work. His undergraduate sustainable development class swelled to 50 students this fall and he was awarded a five-year NSF grant to study cooperation in the local food industry in Maine. Tim also had two working-group proposals accepted, which fund him and a group of colleagues to meet several times over the course of a few years to shut themselves up in a room and engage in intensive geekery.
Weekends, Tim plunges head-long into fatherhood, cutting up PVC pipes to make marble runs, leading the kids to track animal prints backwards through the snowy neighborhood, and building elaborate Lego worlds governed by his very own Lego character, a fellow by the name of Vondie with flowers growing out of his head who speaks in a Swiss accent.
Katie continues (god help her!) to work on her second book, a memoir about our two years in India with Baby Liam. This year, she also taught short yoga classes to preschool teacher friends, and had fun coaching soccer for the first time: six-year olds for weekend games, and four-year olds for weekday practices. It turns out four-year olds will try anything over the course of an hour practice so long as you let them play duck, duck, goose at the end—that game never gets old!
Concerned about high levels of carcinogenic chemical compounds in our local drinking water, Katie lead a number of efforts aimed at improving management of our town’s drinking water, including forming a citizens’ action group, flooding a water board meeting with young children dressed in their pajamas as a silent bedtime protest, and circulating a petition that received over 300 signatures in just a few days. Finally, well aware that Reid will be in full-day kindergarten next year, Katie has been enjoying long walks through the woods with Reid on her back, lunches at home during the week with him on the sunny back patio, and afternoon books with the wee fellow in her lap, eking out the pleasurable pace and perspective of our soon-to-be-big preschooler.
Travel and Visits
We were particularly glad for the Thanksgiving visit to Pennsylvania because we got to visit Tim’s grandfather Bill, who passed away at age 95 in early January. The highlight of our travel, perhaps, was a trip to Sweden for Katie and Tim, which involved a stay with old Kodai friends, meandering down cobblestone streets, conversation uninterrupted by children, biking around the countryside on midsummer evenings, eating pickled herring for breakfast, and reveling in dreams of perfect socialist states. The last two trips wouldn’t be possible without the childcare of our generous parents.
We feel very fortunate to live in a beautiful place during a stable period. We simply wish we could see all of you more often.