Hello, Folks, and welcome to 2011.
This week, instead of our regular column, we have the Wright Family’s New Year Letter, complete with pictures, including a rare picture of the Cherubim, who has not previously appeared in any online post.
Next week, we will continue our regular Wright’s Writing Corner with a post on Aristotle’s Poetics and the nature of a great plot.
Dear Friends and Family,
Welcome to 2011!
As is our usual wont, instead of a Christmas Card, here is our New Year’s Letter, detailing the events of the previous year. 2010 was a wonderful year for us. We did much less travel than in the several years previous, but the one trip we took was more than made up for that!
The best week of 2010—and possibly of the decade or even my whole life—was the week we spent on Chincoteague Island. For one week, we lived without computers or TV (okay, I checked my email on my phone, but only when it had a signal.) The children played card games and board games. We read books. We went to a carnival. We swam in the ocean. We rode on a (fake) trolley. We ate ice cream…lots and lots of ice cream!
John could not afford to come for the whole week (he had spent his vacation on our trip to China) but he came for four days with Uncle Bill. Then Grandma came up for three days. This made the whole trip so much more fun, as did the presence of our friends, the Johnsons, who met us at the beach each day.
I have wanted to go to Chincoteague ever since third grade, where my friend Jody and I played at being horses every recess in honor of Misty of Chincoteague and her family. Now, I’ve actually been there. Ro and Juss even rode a pony that was either a great, great, great descendant of the REAL Misty of Chincoteague or a pony that was standing next to a great, great, great descendant of Misty. I wasn’t quite clear on that point.
Anyway, it was a wonderful week. We all had a splendid time, even Ro, who declared quite clearly: “I need more beach!”
Ping-Ping has now been with us for over a year. She has gone from speaking no English to being able to express herself in all sorts of simple ways. She still does not feel confident enough to speak out much in public, but she now chats happily with family and friends. She is spirited and bright and is doing very well in school (even though they stuck her in two English classes and two math classes.)
Ping-Ping took up piano in February. She asked to play and I set up lessons with a friend who teaches piano. Only after she started did I think, “Gee, isn’t it convenient that my friend LiPing speaks Chinese!” Ping-Ping has enjoyed her lessons and the company of the wonderful, gracious LiPing. She played two pieces at the Christmas recital. She made a few mistakes, but otherwise her playing was beautiful. Ping-Ping’s comment was that she did not realize there would be so many people watching her.
The other big event in Ping-Ping’s life has been her rabbit. Last February, she asked for a rabbit. I told her she could have it after school got out, if she studied hard and did well. When she got back from camp in July, Uncle Bill built a rabbit hutch for her. (She was supposed to help with this, but ended up doing very little. ) Then we went in search of a rabbit. We checked out Rabbit Rescue, but did not find anything she liked. We also checked out websites for rabbit breeders. It looked like the little guy was going to be at least $100. Eventually, we found an ad for baby rabbits on Craigslist. The rabbit cost us $10.
Originally, the rabbit was named Yiyi, after Ping-Ping’s best friend. But, it turned out to be a boy. Now it’s name is just Rabbit. Or, occasionally, Bunny. Ping-Ping did not know the word “bunny” when we first used it, but now she loves it. I figure calling it Rabbit for her is no different than if we named it after the Chinese word for rabbit.
Ping-Ping spent two weeks at Crystal Lake Camp, a Christian Science summer camp in Pennsylvania. Orville went, too. She did not seem to care for camping with no TV or computer, but she did well–being awarded the Golden Horseshoe for
horseback riding excellence–and she made some friends. We had a strange moment last fall when John and I were on the campus of St. Johns College in Annapolis, signing novels and seeing friends for Homecoming, when we heard someone calling Ping-Ping’s name. One of her counselors from Crystal Lake is a student at St. John’s.
Orville had a really good 2010, probably the best year of his life so far. He went from being utterly dependant to being independent enough to go on Boy Scout overnights on his own! He has even been awarded the position of Troop Assistant Chaplin and gets to lead the other Boy Scouts in their prayers.
He is doing well in school. This fall they put him in two gen-ed (general education) classes—social studies and science—and he is doing as well in those classes as in the special ed classes he normally takes. His teacher also tells me that he helps the other children in math class. She says he can take things she says and communicate them in a simpler fashion to his classmates.
Reading is still a struggle…but much less so than previously. Orville was actually spotted reading for pleasure once or twice this fall. His favorite activities currently are listening to books on CD and talking with Dad.
Talking with Dad has been the favorite activity of both Orville and Juss this year. Dad is extremely interesting. Juss complains that Dad makes history and science interesting and school makes them boring. Both boys pester him constantly to expound forth on almost any subject: science, history, TV shows he saw as a kid, old rollplaying games, religion, etc. If John can talk about it, the kids want to hear about it, particularly Orville, who awaits the return of Daddy with eager anticipation every day. John has also run a couple of interesting games for the boys including a Space Game and an Old West Game.
Orville enjoyed his first experience with camp away from home when he and Ping-Ping attended Crystal Lake Camp in Pennsylvania this summer.
The Cherubim is the hardest one to talk about. He lives a pleasant life, walking about with a little smile on his lips. He is generally happy. He loves listening to music and watching videos. He also likes simple mechanical things, such as his brothers Bakugan (toy balls that open into little monsters with the application of a magnet.) Juss lost interest in the Bakuagn months ago, but Ro takes them out almost every night and carefully opens and closes them.
The other day, I caught him sitting on Orville’s bed and smiling. He had found the CD player Orville uses for his long bus rides to school, taken out the CD of the Hobbit Orville was listening to, and put in a disk of the Wiggles. He looked so proud of himself as he sat there listening to the music. I think I’ll get him is own CD player.
He has a wonderful sense of humor and is often laughing. He loves his big sister, who picks on his all the time is a somewhat rough but mainly loving manner. When she first decided to actually learn English after all, she got him to tell her the sounds of the letters. It was adorable.
He talks a bit more than he used to, perhaps partially because of Ping-Ping, who talks with him and gets him to say things. He sometimes speaks in full sentences, though often not. Yesterday, he wanted noodles. I told him no but offered him a glass of water (it was just before dinner.) He agreed. As I poured the water, he leaned across the refrigerator door and announced in his soft breathy voice: “All right, Noodles! Listen up!” I laughed for about ten minutes.
Justinian Potter preparing for his first day at Hogwarts.
2010 was, in many ways, a very hard year for Juss. His experience is, in some ways, more normal than that of his brothers and sister…but this means that he has to face a whole series of normal growing up problems that the others just haven’t had to face. On top of that, he has a few struggles of his own. And yet, he is in some ways the most responsible of all the children. If I have to leave, Juss is the one I trust to keep an eye on Roland. (Ping-Ping and Orville would not notice the Apocalypse if they happened to be watching a movie at the time.)
Juss remains tremendously interested in games of all kinds: board, video, roleplaying, etc. And he is probably the best thing that ever happened to Orville, who would otherwise live entirely by himself, if he did not have a devoted young brother to pester him back into the world with the rest of us.
Juss’s Cub Scout Pack folded last spring. This summer, he discovered a new pack run out of Roland’s school, one that had several of his soccer team companions in it. Juss has been enjoying the Cub Scout activities and recently one The Silver Spoon (second place) in the Cake Division of the Bake Off for his Mario Mushroom Cupcakes.
One of the highlights of 2010 for me was the day Juss asked to hear the poetry I wrote when I was a kid. No one had ever shown any interest in my songs and poetry, but Juss sat there spellbound for an hour, insisting I read each poem and sing each song. He even wrote a few of his own. Afterwards, I shared this touching moment with my brother, who admitted that while I was at college, he used to sneak into my room and read my poems, which he thought weren’t bad. So, in one hour, my poems went from having been read by two people (Mom and me) to having been read by four people.
Finally: a brief update for John and me and then onto the kids. John and I both started new websites this year. John’s is just a journal. Mine is full of all sorts of stuff, including info about my books, a journal, some of my writing-related blogs. My gratitude goes out to the Web Goblin, who made all this possible.
John sold a new novel called COUNT TO A TRILLION to Tor books. This novel should be out sometime next year. Meanwhile his short stories and novellas have appeared in the anthologies
ENGINEERING INFINITY and YEAR’S BEST SF 27 and CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 3.
For those of you who do not know, I post a weekly column on writing called Wright’s Writing Corner in which I discuss all sorts of aspects of writing. The column is hard work but lots of fun. I have been amazed by how much I have learned about writing in the last year just by writing this column.
You can see the writing articles by going to my Welcome To Arhyalon website and clicking on “Wright’s Writing Corner” to the left. Or, if you prefer news about the family and funny things the kids said, you can pick “Overheard at the Wright Household” for funny moments, mainly staring Juss.
And, finally, my second novel came out this summer. Prospero In Hell has received quite a few really nice reviews, a star from Publisher’s Weekly, and appeared on Kirkus’s Best SF and Fantasy of 2010 list. I am very grateful that people are enjoying it.
The very last thing we did in 2010 was get a new car! Our 1995 Silhouette is going away and a beautiful 2001 Odyssey is taking it’s place. Except for being silver, it is just like our red one. What a joy it is to get a new car that is exactly like one you already drive!
Should anyone actually read this far, thanks! And may your 2011 is a very happy one!