Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Year in Review

2012 was a big year for us -- it seems like every year is packed with activity now, but I'm surprised at how much happened over the past 12 months.

We visited Mary and Joe in Florida in January and, between swimming and visiting, discovered sea beans. Sea beans are seeds that have been transported over the ocean and could still germinate. They come in many shapes and sizes and colors and are available for those with eagle eyes.
Jellyfish on the beach!

In February, we spent a little over a week in Nicaragua. A pediatrician at Julie's clinic, Dorchester House, has been working with an NGO called Superemos in Esteli in the northwestern hills of Nicaragua for many years and Julie was invited to join him. The medical team gave advice and assistance to local public health workers and saw hundreds of patients in this rural area. Meanwhile, the kids and I spent time helping paint a mural, worked with clay, learned some Spanish, visited a local school, looked at all the fruits and spices available in the market, met a local artist, and went on hikes. A highlight for the kids: riding in the back of a pickup truck! For me: seeing all of our tropical houseplants growing in a native environment!

Mari and friends dancing

A highlight for all of us was meeting our new friends Alba Ena and Rico and spending our last weekend in beautiful Grenada, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the Americas.

Jumping into a Nicaraguan lake with freshwater sharks

Back at home, we had our basement redone and now it's a great place playroom and guest room for visitors. Just ask Vera and Stephen, Val and Emma, Amy and Aaron, or Steve and Heidi (or come visit yourselves!). (Using scrap materials, Austin and Mari helped me make a little clubhouse in the backyard but you have to ask them for an invitation to that.)

We coordinated a visit to Toronto with my sister's family and had a lot of fun with the cousins at the Science Center, ROM, Centre Island and lots of delicious Chinese restaurants. On the drive back to Boston we all stopped in LeRoy, NY to visit the Jello Museum! An educational experience for sure.
An electroencephalogram of Jello is the same as a brain!
Still a mystery: why anyone would take an EEG of Jello
This summer we went west to visit Edie, Bill, Maia and Lucy, and Wendy, Pete and Parker, and to attend Rich and Amy's wedding in Colorado! It was so picturesque, much of it made it onto our Christmas card:

A&M outside Rocky Mtn Nat Park, J & A on Mt Washington,
A pointing out a dinosaur bone on Dinosaur Ridge,
M & me at the wedding, M at circus camp
Highlights included a horseback trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, adding Mentos to Coke, touring the Argo Mine, swinging on Walk-e-Woo leashes (so strong we trust our kids on them!), and of course, the wedding, the wedding, the wedding. Austin was an usher and Mari and cousin Lucia were flower girls. It was in Washington Park on a gorgeous day and it was great to spend time with family and friends (new and old!). 

Julie went on a few trips this year, including visiting her niece Lucia in Pittsburgh. She took Mari to New York City one weekend and they saw The Lion King on Broadway! Another weekend was spent with Austin in New Hampshire climbing Mount Washington, highest peak in the northeast! (Meanwhile, back at home, I took Austin to Fenway Park for his first time, and went with Mari to Circus Smirkus.)
Julie continues to work at Dorchester House; she won a grant to initiate a program to oversee nurse practitioner training, and she still teaches communication skills to medical students at BMC and is active in communication in health care. She completed her third Hale triathlon this year and is co-coaching Austin's Destination Imagination team.

Austin is now in the fourth grade. He played Little League in the spring and summer, and soccer in the fall. He's also a great tennis player and skier and he loves hiking and making up jokes. He really liked the Avengers movie, and has been enjoying watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with me.

Mari tried softball and soccer this year but preferred going to Moody Street Circus' summer camp and will be taking classes there this winter. She's in the 2nd grade and loves making art, writing poems and knitting with her friend Ann. 

I've recently been directing the Clemente Course, the humanities program I've been teaching in for over a decade (!). This year, I have also been working on illustrations for a final report on a dig in Syria and I'm preparing to visit Sudan in January on another archaeological project. I coached Austin's soccer team in the fall (having volunteered to be an assistant) and went from apprehensive to panicked to actually really enjoying the experience -- the boys and their families were easy to work with and I had a lot of advice from friends.
Clemente faculty and graduates
The whole family is still active in the Newton Family Singers. I continue to play in the band (and blog), and Mari, Julie and Austin had solos in our December concert. Our raspberry patch was bountiful this year and we had a great time trying to keep up with the fruit. Julie and I taught the kids to play Settlers of Catan and we've since spent many an enjoyable evening around the game. One of our favorite books to read together this year was Wonder because it was funny and touching and dealt with fitting in and had a really nice message that boiled down to: Choose Kind.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Financial Advisor

I'm looking into talking with a financial advisor, just to get an objective opinion on where our assets are, how we're investing, how much we need to save for college, etc.

We're looking for a fee-only advisor (paid hourly, not on sales commissions) but haven't gotten many personal referrals. If you know of anyone in the Greater Boston area, comments with contact info would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, as a placeholder, I wanted to make sure I remembered these two sites:

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors


Garrett Planning Network.

I found them through links on the NYTimes Bucks blog.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Photobooth 2012

This summer's photobooth entry. We misjudged the last two (meant to be kids only, and then with me and Julie).

Other photobooth photos from this blog can be found here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Every Day is Father's Day

Every day is like Father's Day with Mari around. Here are some sample random notes that she leaves me:

Thanks for being the best! Here is a co[u]pon for a free hug! Just hand it in and I'll check the back.

Dad, you know how you said I'm creative? Well, I think you're creative, too! So from now on, I'll be Creative 1 and you can be Creative 2. Love, Creative 1

And even, when I was having a very bad day and was very grumpy:

For Dad
My heart [accompanied by a drawing of a heart]
You don't
know how how
bad I feel.
You burnt nuts [I was making candied pecans].
I bet I'll still like them.
You hit your head.
I hope it feels better.
Our lunch was unhealthy,
I [k]now I'll have a better dinner.
So that's all I wanted to write.
P.S. I'm
really, really, really,
really, really, really
really, really, really,
really sorry about
your day.
your favorite dau[gh]ter, lov[e]ly toasted,
and friendly girl,

That one made me feel better.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Music ... sharing

Looking at Jonathan Coulton's site, I stumbled upon the internet sensation that is Emily White's (NPR intern) commentary on (not) buying music, followed by David Lowery (yes, the guy from Camper van B and Cracker!)'s response.

The best part, though, is the editor's note about deleting comments on Lowery's page. To wit:

Lately though we’ve adopted some totally random rules to cut down on the sheer volume.  If your IP address has “23″ in it we immediately delete w/o reading.  If your wordpress handle has “girl” or “free” or “media” or “Tech” we delete immediately.  If you start with foul language or are extra angry we delete.  Unless of course we want you to look stupid then we publish your comments.   Today  we searched  for all comments that contained the words “market” “zero”  or  ”marginal” and bulk deleted. This was specifically cause we don’t really want to explain that fixed costs really do matter and no matter what you heard from some idiot on the internet. If you play bass we delete.    Also “”McPherson”: bulk delete. The use of the words “consumer” , “ointment” , “dude”, “gatekeepers” and “dubstep” also resulted in a fair number of deletions. We are only joking about some of this.   If you feel that this somehow infringes your freedom  you have the whole free internet out there to express we’ve infringed your freedom.
Sorry Sir Paul, we delete bassists. 

Batman thoughts

I'm somewhat excited about the upcoming Batman film -- not as much anticipation as I had for Avengers, but still want to see it -- but I'm kind of getting tired of the megablockbuster aspect of comic book movies.

You know what would be really cool? Take $30 million of Warner Bros money and offer it to half a dozen or more filmmakers to make 10-20 minute short films about Batman (or Gotham City). It would be the equivalent of the Batman: Black and White comics anthology but on film. (Those are 1-5 page stories by leading comic book writers and artists, many of whom would never otherwise be hired to write or draw a "regular" Batman comic.) Share the same actors for the same characters  -- or don't.

Instead of taking a comic book and painting it on screen with CGI, use filmmaking ingenuity to make cool shorts. You could even tick off the genres: horror movie, detective movie, heist movie (starring Catwoman?), street level human interest movie, a film strictly from Alfred's POV, a story from Batman's retirement.

All the films would be different styles. Imagine a Tarantino, or John Woo Batman. Or a Michael Mann Batman. A Lena Dunham Gotham city girl obsessed with Batman? A Wes Anderson Alfred cleans up the Batcave ( through stop-motion animation?)!

Do it with a relatively low budget, shoot them down and dirty, and release the best 90 minutes in theaters, include the rest on DVD. Will it make a billion dollars? No, but a profit would be guaranteed.

Couldn't do worse than Green Lantern.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012