Christmas 2011

Happy Holidays!

Family Photo: (back) Kids and Us; (front) Teresa, John, Tori, and NatalieWe’re celebrating milestones: being a three-generation household for a year, paying off our mortgage, adding two countries to our list of places visited, and becoming younger from chasing a lively almost-five year old.

Cathy—a single mom and back to work

Cathy and Tori at Preschool PerformanceCathy returned to work for the LAPD in March, accepting a training sergeant position at the Topanga station. Two facial plastic surgeries are complete and she’s looking pretty good.

Cathy’s been able to keep up with work, parenting, working out, swimming, and reconnecting with old friends from high school and college, and (selfishly) I love having another cook in the house! The Valencia house sale has been stymied by the banking industry slow-down, but we’re optimistic 2012 will be different, and she and Kirk will be able to move on with their separate lives.

Tori—livening up our household

Tori and Friend Nidhi in a Pipe at the Pumpkin PatchTori started pre-school in Newbury Park. Two mornings she is picked up by the little yellow school bus for her special ed. pre-school, and three mornings she has “car school” where one of us takes her to the regular preschool. She enjoys Spanish, drama, and dancing at school in addition to other pre-K activities, and has made the backyard here her personal Wonderland.

Jenny—traveling and taking courses

Mary and I with Jenny at Huntington Gardens in MayJenny has enjoyed having time to be Aunt Jenny to the four nieces and nephews, take pottery and German classes, and expand her cultural horizons through trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, and the Indio, CA, Stagecoach Country Music Festival, which she and Cathy attended.

There may be a rat race (i.e., job) in 2012 for her, but for the moment she’s enjoying life and making the most of having time off work.

Brian and Marion—trilingual kids?

Marion Counseling Jamie on Proper Birthday Behavior Lucie Reflecting While on a Slide at Point Pinole Park Jamie and Nicky with Snot and Tears on their Second BirthdayBrian and Marion somehow manage to stay sane with three little ones running around, and Marion is on schedule to complete her Graphic Design degree this month. What a relief that will be. Brian continues at Adobe, and gets in a little weekend soccer and quality time with the Kinder.

We look forward to a bit of post-Christmas madness when they arrive Boxing Day. The six managed a summer trip to Germany. Due to the efforts of, and their affection for, home helper Lucía, the twins respond equally to milk, Milch, and leche.

David—becoming Experianced

MNatalie and Dave with Tori on the SlideDavid’s efforts in promoting Geoffrey Arone’s SafetyWeb.com over the past year culminated in its being acquired by the credit-reporting company Experian in May. Although he now has to endure an occasional 50-mile commute from Santa Monica to Irvine, he’s able to work from home part of the time stays and overnight in Irvine 2-3 nights a week.

As an Experian employee, David is gaining new experiences and stable remuneration. His day-to-day work involves promoting Experian's websites like CreditReport.com via search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and executing Facebook advertising campaigns.

Larry—computers and travel

Larry and Sister Sue on the Michigan Avenue Bridge in ChicagoLarry continues the Mr-Fixit gig for various family members, friends, and the church to keep the computers running. At church he’s “the IT guy,” able to manage most of their tech problems, big and small.

Solo travel included a trip to Chicago to help his sister Sue set up and network a computer and a trip to Detroit to do some genealogical research and visit Comerica Stadium, Greenfield Village, and what is not yet a historical site, his childhood Royal Oak home.

Mary—retirement still not in sight

Teaching at CSUN keeps me busy, although with the cutbacks there are fewer classes for us part-timers. There are increases in class size and difficulties for the students in trying to get their classes each semester. As long as I can manage the commute and the workload, it’s good for me. I do enjoy the students and like what I’m doing.

Mary Cherry Burke (1921-2011)

Mary Burke in August 2005 at 84 Her Shrinking Family: Brother Michael, Mary, Dad Jerry, and Sister TeresaThis was an emotional summer with the passing of my mom in August, two weeks before her 90th birthday. Her life was long and interesting, and it was sad that the last four years were spent in so much physical pain. I felt privileged to be with her on her last day, and her passing was as peaceful as she would have wished.

We miss her sharp wit and her amazing memory of just about everyone who ever crossed her path, and daily we all think of how she would have responded to particular events. My dad is doing well, keeping busy, missing her a lot, Old Soldier that he is. He did a superb job keeping her comfortable at home as long as possible with good caretakers during the day.

Countries 48 (Larry) and 46 (Mary)

Our European Trip Itinerary: June 1 to June 17Our summer travels included Tuscany, San Marino, and Croatia.

We rendezvoused with my sister Teresa and husband John in Florence, where a picturesque old hotel provided a good base for a few days before we continued on to our rental villa La Fonte in Certaldo, an hour south by train.

With John doing the driving but aided by an indispensable GPS, we navigated the roads to Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena, Volterra, and the Chianti region. Our La Fonte digs were comfortable and convenient as our base of operations for our week of car travel in Tuscany.

Aboard Ferry in Rimini awaiting Departure for SplitWhen Teresa and John headed back to the U.S., Larry and I took a train from Florence to Rimini and a bus into the mountainous principality of San Marino. We walked the hills and explored the medieval towers on the town’s heights. After a bus ride back to Rimini and a train trip to Ancona, we were at the ferry terminal for an overnight Adriatic crossing. Dinner on board was enlivened by conversations with a couple young Russian pilots and their wives about conditions in their country.

Our first view of Split, Croatia, early the next morning surprised me. I had thought it would look like cities in northern Europe, but it’s very Mediterranean—palm trees, white-washed buildings, and blue water. During our few days in Croatia we walked the alleys within Diocletian’s Palace, took a bus to Trogir, and traveled by ferry to Supetar on Brač island.

The crop report? Pumpkins aplenty!

Tori with Four of Sixteen Pumpkins from Our GardenWe spent the rest of the summer enjoying our garden and helping Tori plant vegetables she likes. The great success was the pumpkin patch, yielding 16 good-sized pumpkins, made into jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin bread, pie, soup, and her favorite, roasted pumpkin seeds. Now we’re monitoring the last of the cherry tomatoes and the new little carrot seedlings, as well as the snow peas and blueberries. All provide balanced nutrition for a five-year old, not to mention fresh air and exercise—an unbeatable combination!

Enjoy the holidays!