Yes, it's December again and time for a wrapup of the year.

An early-morning view of the home viewed from
the east.
The centerpiece of the year was a family trip to Lake Michigan in July.   The plan was to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, which was in August (many of you may remember the original event), but work and school schedules made July a better choice.   We rented a vacation home near the lake for a week, and six adults and four kids converged on Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Our rental home was located in a wooded area north of Benton Harbor, Michigan, near Lake Michigan.   The home included a kitchen, dining room, living room, sun porch, beds for ten people, outdoor firepit, parking for three vehicles, and a healthy crop of poison ivy.   The owner advertised it as suitable for six adults and four children — exactly what we needed for our three families:
  •   Neal and Ann from Brazoria.
  •   Laura, Loren, Bridget (10), and Katelyn (8), from Utah.
  •   Sarah, Clint, Nathan (5) and Owen (3), from Katy.

All ten of us on the front steps.
And here we are!   In the photo at left:
    Back row: Clint, Loren
    Third row: Ann, Laura
    Second row: Katelyn, Bridget
    Front row: Sarah, Owen, Nathan, Neal
Benton Harbor is not an area any of us was especially familiar with, but we found lots of things to do: beaches as far north as Holland, lighthouses, the Silver Beach Carousel in St. Joseph, the Air Zoo near Kalamazoo.
Plus, lightning bugs!   And s'mores in the backyard!

Here are the four grandkids splashing around in Lake Michigan.

  Owen, Nathan, Katelyn, Bridget.
Click the photos to see more photos.

More photos in and around Benton Harbor...

Air Zoo, near Kalamazoo

Silver Beach Carousel, St. Joseph

Lunch at Clementines,
South Haven

Sarett Nature Center,
Benton Harbor

S'mores around the firepit

Before our week at the lake, Neal and Ann visited Ann Arbor to see Eric and Sherry, old family friends from our student days.   We also connected with old friends Scott and Liz.   Lots of memories of student radio stations, the theater department, and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.   Gretel, another G&S'er, came for a day of reminiscence.
We also paid a brief visit with Fred and Anne Remley.   Fred had been head of the engineering group at the University's radio station WUOM, and at the University's television production studio, when Neal worked there.   As Neal notes, "Fred was my boss, my mentor. and a personal friend.  I will always be indebted to him for his leadership and friendship."

The Cloud Gate — otherwise known as "The Bean."
On the way back to Texas we stopped for a few days in Chicago to visit our friends Helene and Steve.   Ann and Helene were roommates in the dorms at the University and we've been friends ever since.
We did the usual tourist things in Chicago, including the mandatory visit to Millenium Park to see the Cloud Gate and a quick trip through the Art Institute of Chicago.

  Art Institute of Chicago.

  Robbie Rosco Dog McLain
Another major event has been the arrival of a new dog.
We lost our beloved Willie in early September after a short but stressful illness.   A month later we found a young corgi who needed a home.   Robbie was nearly a year old when he came to us.   He had been dumped on a woman in Galveston, who posted him online through a corgi rescue outfit.
We were really lucky to find him.   Some bad things seem to have happened to him along the way, and his household manners were rather sketchy, but things are getting better very rapidly.   He keeps us laughing at his adventures with toads and squirrels, and his ongoing projects of making paper-mache and digging holes.  He's going to be a great dog.

More Robbie photos...

Digging another hole in the yard

A new toy — a palmetto frond!

Robbie with Neal in Brazoria

So why did you stick your head in the cracker box?

Ann writes...
I'm finally rid of the Garden Club Presidency.   Once a person agrees to do that sort of job, it's very hard to be excused from it.   People plead that you just have to do it one more time (because they don't want to do it either).   I finally had to say I didn't care if the club had no president at all — I wasn't doing it ever again.   So I haven't been very involved in Garden Club this fall.   More time for working with Robbie.
I did teach some classes for the intern classes of both Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists.   And I taught a series about nature for the local community education senior citizens program.
Neal is still the volunteer that can't say "no."   He's active with our local Texas Master Naturalists Chapter and Friends of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuges, and runs the websites for both.   He volunteers once a week (and sometimes more) at the Brazoria County Historical Museum, working with their map collection.   He serves on the Brazoria County Historical Commission, for which he is supposed to maintain ten state historical markers.   He continues to work on his cable TV history website, and he messes around with the Brazos Valley Railroad Society's museum.   One highlight of the year was an overnight road trip with the train guys for a railfan ride on the Texas State Railroad.

Laura and her husband Loren are still in Utah.   Loren travels a lot for his work.   Laura is busy seeing patients at Holladay Veterinary Hospital.  
Laura also serves as the veterinarian for Utah Task Force 1, a FEMA emergency response team.   The task force is big, with lots of heavy equipment and construction/destruction guys, but an important part is the team of search-and-rescue dogs and their handlers.   Laura deployed along with the dogs to the flash flooding event around Boulder.   And one of the dog-and-handler teams went to Oso, Washington after that terrible mudslide there.  

Pippin, corgi hero
    Laura just got a new puppy ― a male black labrador retriever tentatively named Ty (right).   If all goes well, the two of them will be having a go at K-9 search training.
Pippin (left), the corgi hero of Laura's book The Corgi Chronicles, is still doing well, too.   His main job is minding everyone else's business.   He's going to like having the new puppy to boss around.

Ty, the new puppy

Foothills Elementary School, Riverton, Utah
    Bridget and Katelyn are at Foothills Elementary School in Riverton, where they have been getting more homework than they (or Laura) would like.   Bridget enjoys art and animals.   Katelyn likes animals.   And princesses.
We weren't able to make our usual Halloween trip to Utah this year, but we hope to be there with Robbie in costume in 2015!
    Katelyn and Bridget in a school photo

Clint, in the Tech Services Department of Stagelight
    Sarah and Clint are living their increasingly busy lives in Katy, Texas.   Clint is still at Stagelight, and Sarah is one of the two drapers in the costume department at Alley Theater.
The Alley is being extensively renovated this season, so all of their productions are being done in a theater on the University of Houston campus.   This complicates life, to say the least.   The Alley construction shops are still at the old location, so tech rehearsals involve a lot of moving people and stuff back and forth.   The old main stage at the Alley was built without a lot of things — fly space, wings, a curtain, etc (it was built in those trendy theater-in-the-round days.)   And adding fly space means adding another story on the building!
Sarah, in the Alley Theater Costume Department, cutting a pattern for a costume for Agatha Christie's The Hollow.

Nathan, July 2014
Owen, July 2014
    Nathan has started kindergarten — a big change for him and for his parents.   Ah, the joys of public school.
Owen is now attending the same pre-school Nathan went to last year.   Both boys start and end the day there, and the pre-school gets Nathan to kindergarten.   Owen is learning all the stuff he needs for school, although when he counts from 1 to 10, there often are some interesting sidesteps.
Nathan reports that he's still learning the stuff he already knows.   We all need to think about that.
All the grandkids are growing and learning every day, and we only wish we could be present for more of it.   But all is well with our extended family, and we wish the same for you and yours.