Merry Manic Markleys: 2011

Online Greetings Replaced with Oldschool Solution

(Unless, of course, you are reading this online: this blog entry represents the electronic version of our traditional holiday update, sent out earlier this week) With focus groups and web analytics revealing a less than positive response to their 2010 online holiday greeting, the Markleys announced this week they will revert to their tree-harvest heavy, ridicule-inviting method of correspondence that traditionally ranks in popularity somewhere around Aunt Clara’s Bunny Pajamas and holiday fruit cake: the Annual Christmas Letter.

Jenny Thoma hamming it up with Abe in Boise

The Year of the FES

In early 2011, Jenny Thoma moved in with the family for four months, courtesy of the Rotary foreign exchange student program.  The Switzerland native took Boise High School and Bogus Basin Ski Resort by storm, and flooded the Markley home with more pink accoutrements and strawberry-smelling hair care products than the family had ever experienced.  The Thoma clan descended upon Boise in the spring to buy shoes and a teeny, white Chihuahua they named Bambi and dressed in pink and rhinestones. Jenny departed in June with a newfound affinity for Nerf guns and Star Wars movies.

Henna Altomaa, her family and the Markleys in Helsinki

Henna Altomaa, a Finnish exchange student, is the most recent addition to the family.  Henna is as serious about her studies as she is about sports.  She is nationally ranked in the top ten in her age group in the breast stroke, and enjoyed competing on the Boise High swim team this year.  She will continue with the YMCA Swim Team for the rest of the year, and plans to join the Boise High softball and ski teams.

The Lengths We’ll Go for an Interesting Holiday Letter

Jack looking out over Amsterdam

In July, the Markleys left Idaho to visit Saara Kaijanen and her family in Finland.  Saara, an exchange student from the 2008-09 school year, had subsequently returned to Boise twice, and the Markleys agreed it was their turn to make the trek to her part of the world.

Never failing to pack too much into one trip, the Markleys brought Saara along on a jaunt through Northern Europe, including Tallinn, Estonia; Koln, Germany; Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Brussels, Belgium before returning to Helsinki for an overnight train ride to the Arctic Circle (for which they were horribly under dressed) to meet up with Saara’s parents and visit with Santa. Saara was later renamed Radar O’Reilly because of her uncanny ability to anticipate train arrivals and restroom availability.

Mike and Beth in Old Town Tallinn, Estonia

The Markley children, now famous in multiple countries for various nefarious reasons including inconsistent dinner manners and an inability to quietly appreciate great works of art for more than 75 seconds (Colin’s informal review of the Van Gogh museum: “This is boring!”), are nevertheless up for formal recognition as tenacious traveling companions, who are more likely able to correctly calculate the relative value of the euro to the dollar, read a map or navigate a metro system than their mother.

Hanging out with Saara in front of the Brussles Parliament building

Over the course of the trip, the Markleys visited six UNESCO world heritage sites, and traveled by train, ferry, charter bus, tram, subway, taxi, canal bus and airplane, all the while testing their collective endurance for family time. All survived the adventure (which you can read more about in earlier entries of this blog).

News from Reality

Jack outside the cathedral at Cologne

In the fall, Jack entered junior high school.  He appears to be thriving contrary to social convention that dictates junior high students be abjectly miserable for three years. Colin’s anticipated behavior as an elementary school miscreant has yet to manifest itself as of third grade, leading the elder Markleys to wonder if earlier anxieties about future visits to the principal’s office were mistaken.

Colin and "Snow White" near Rovaniemi, Finland, at the Artic Circle

Both boys are active in sports, with Colin playing little league baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall, and Jack participating in track and basketball.   The boys enjoyed their third season of swim team in the summer and managed to escape serious injury during the ski season, despite firmly held beliefs of their own respective bullet-proofedness, which doesn’t show signs of abating any time soon.

Mike is still managing to balance fun with family and two jobs: teaching two sections of technical writing at Boise State University, and managing technical writers and project managers at the national professional services firm Aquent Studios.

In addition to continuing to provide fundraising and communication counsel for nonprofit organizations, Beth has recently diversified into broadcast media.  She partners with her mom, Pat, to produce a weekly environmental public policy program on Boise Community Radio.

The Handsome Men's Club

Beth and Mike both participated in the Robie Creek and Leavenworth (WA) half marathons, and Mike grew the worst looking facial hair ever as part of the Handsome Mens’ Club of the Sawtooth Relay. Both feel they’ve satisfactorily proved the theory that at a certain age, one must train hard to even approach the level of the mediocre in such event.

In July, the extended Markley clan, including branches of the family from Wyoming and Oregon, as well as Beth’s mom, Pat, and sister, Heather, invaded Stanley, Idaho, for a celebration of Bob and Sylvia Markley’s 60th wedding anniversary.  There was broad consensus on the need for more such gatherings before the next 60 year benchmark, something that remains a possibility since no one gained significant notoriety or was banned outright from the small hamlet as a result of the festivities.

The Markleys, the Bruehers and the Whites at Leavenworth, WA

Mike and Beth later celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, but without quite as much fanfare …they were tired.

Holiday Traditions: Ho, Ho, Hwaugh

Midlife Sentence | Merry Christmas

I won’t say who started this, but a certain person in my family (alright, it’s my mom) got a bug one year to establish a new tradition. It might have had something to do with my grandmother moving to Boise and our having had kids – four generations for whom new holiday memories must be made every year. I thought that was what the whole presents, parties, celebration of the birth of our savior thing was for, but why not pile something else on?

Among the family traditions that failed to catch on was a visit to the Botanical Garden’s Winter Garden Aglow. This is a lovely event for appreciative older children and adults who can stand and walk for a while and don’t chill easily or burn their tongues on hot chocolate. Didn’t work for grandma or the boys.

Another no-go was dressing up to see Ballet Idaho’s The Nutcracker. I loved it. So did my mom and sister. Big thumbs down from the boys in the family. Grandma fell asleep. Overall approval rating: less than 50 percent.

Another year we decided (or the person who shall go unnamed, who initiated this whole holiday tradition stuff in the first place, decided) on the Holiday Lights Tour. This is an event where one boards a charter bus/trolley vehicle, with benches along the walls. The bus/trolley vehicle makes its way through random neighborhoods so its passengers can gawk at everyone else’s holiday trimmings.

The kids were still young enough that we packed a diaper bag.

We met up and purchased some lukewarm chocolate and loaded the bus/trolley thing, which was full with about a dozen people on board and the heat blasting. The windows immediately steamed up. We drove around some Boise neighborhood that would have been indistinguishable from any other neighborhood except that it was supposed to have a large concentration of homeowners who competed each year for the  most awe inspiring lights display. There was an abundance of curvy roads and cul-de-sacs in this particular borough.

When you let kids decorate the holiday goodies you get cookie men with armpit hair.

Did, um, I mention that several members of my family tend toward severe motion sickness? Jack used to not give us much warning about his urpy tummy, so in self defense our Jedi parent senses became finely tuned to his silent puke-tells.

So we’re in this dark, overheated bus/trolly contraption, and the driver is saying something titillating like: “In 1994, when this neighborhood was under the auspices of the Mid-Boise Bench Neighborhood Association, light up holiday trolls were forbidden. They frightened the kiddos, you see ….”

I heard my sister say “Jack, are you going to look at the lights? Why are you so quiet?”

I whipped the diaper bag from under the bench, drew out a plastic shopping bag, and shoved another one inside that (you DON’T want leaks in the barf bag), and covered the lower half of Jack’s face just in time for him to hurl all the lukewarm hot chocolate up without spilling a drop. Victory.

But that victory was going to be short lived if we didn’t act fast. Neither one of my kids is blessed with the one-and-done strain of motion sickness. We’ve had Jack get sick more than half a dozen times on a 70-mile stretch of highway between McCall and Horseshoe Bend. That’s almost once every ten miles.  When the barf train gets rolling, it’s a local, baby. There was going to be more to this show.

Then there was the fact that I was completely humiliated. And the smell in the bus/trolley thing was making me woozy. Some guy in the back said “what happened?” and his wife said “the little boy got sick.” We had to get out of there pronto.

I turned to Mike and said “we’re going,” grabbed the baby, the diaper bag, and Jack’s hand after handing Mike the barf bag, and tromped to the front of the vehicle.

“We’re getting off,” I said.

“It’s just a little bit more, I can’t let you off,” the driver said.

He was going to hold us hostage on the vomit comet against my will? Don’t think so.

“We’re getting off, RIGHT NOW,” I said.

He opened the door and we stepped out into the brightly lit environs of the most award winningest, Christmas lightingest neighborhood ever. The doors closed and the bus/trolley thing drove off. I found out later that it was really distressing for my mom, my sister, grandma and Dad to sit in the bus/trolley and watch the doors close on part of their little family out in the snow. Nobody ever mentioned anything else about how the rest of the tour went.

Midlife Sentence | Merry Christmas

I grew up in Boise, I guess I should known that at 7 pm on a week night in some random neighborhood it would be difficult to hail a cab. When Mike called a cab company we realized that first we needed to walk to a street corner to find out where in the hell we were, and after that it would take a full 45 minutes for a cab to reach us.

Edited to note: This all happened when we still used flip phones. No map apps or Lyft, so don’t @ me, all you people for whom technology has made throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of winter so much easier.

It was also written back when I used double spaces after periods. Times change. We are old. Carry on…

In retrospect, leaving the bus/trolley thing wasn’t so bright, but at the time it seemed the best thing to salvage my pride and my own stomach. Fortunately for us, Jack’s performance didn’t include an encore that night.

Unfortunately we were in the middle of winter, wandering the streets with a toddler, a baby, and a bag of puke. That was kind of a bummer.

We planned to find the nearest arterial road, follow it to the nearest strip mall, and sit in a coffee shop until the tour was over and someone came to pick us up. We weren’t able to find a coffee shop, or a strip mall or arterial road even. We wandered around that crazy circuitous subdivision until our toes froze. My arms locked up from carrying the baby. Somewhere along the way we lost the puke bag. We didn’t appreciate the Christmas lights.

My dad was eventually able to find us after driving around the neighborhood a few times. We climbed into his truck, not minding that he had the heat cranked up.

“Well,” he said with a smile, “that’s one budding ‘family tradition’ put to rest.”

Two and a half showers

[overheard by Mike]

Colin took a 90-second shower tonight.  2.5 of them, actually.

Beth: “Did you use water AND soap?”

Colin: “No. Just water.”

Beth:”Then go back in there and wash your hair and your whole body with soap and shampoo.”

Colin: Grumbling. “Okay.”

90 seconds later. “Okay, mom, I’m done.”

Beth: “Did you shower again and use soap?”

Colin: “Yes. I washed my hair and private parts with soap and water, but I didn’t get into the shower.”  [Let’s call this the half shower.]

Beth: “Um. Okay. I don’t even want to know how you did that, but I need you to  G-O   B-A-C-K    I-N-T-O   the bathroom RIGHT NOW and take a REAL shower WITH soap AND shampoo.”

Second-and-a-half time’s the charm.

Enough Information

[from Beth] Perpetual-question Colin was enjoying a cookie in the car on the way home from swimming.

“Mom, how did they make this cookie?” He asked.

“In the oven.”

“No, Mom. HOW did they make this cookie?”

Uh, oh. “Um,” I said, “with love?”

“MOM, HOW did they make this COOKIE!”

After three questions, and I’m still not getting it, I usually go with the information overload approach. It’s better than yelling that I don’t UNDERSTAND the QUESTION, but still in the “Shock and Awe” spectrum of parenting.

“Well, Colin, they took about two and a quarter cups of flour, mixed it with a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt. Then they creamed about a half cup of butter with two eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla and three quarters cup each of brown and white sugar …”

“That’s enough Mom,” he said.

“Then they mixed all those ingredients together with about a pound of semi sweet chocolate chips …”

“MOM, that’s ENOUGH.”

Mike says I should note this in my calendar as the day Colin received more information than he asked for.