Sunday, January 2, 2011

There's Room in the Cool Kids' Club

This is me, with my two daughters, Corinne and Vanessa.  As we came home from church today, Cori hit me with a gripe that my family New Year's letter was written primarily to make my kids look stupid. 

I didn't say anything about their not needing my help, because I'm not that kind of a mother.

The thing is, we get a fair number of family updates from these hyper achieving families we've met and loved in our vagabond lives, all with tales of jaw-dropping successes and experiences.

I want you to know, we think the world of every single one of these families.  For reasons I can't begin to understand we have always had these uber cool friends, no matter where we've lived.  The only thing I can figure is, when we all get to heaven, they'll receive special awards for their charity work on the Handy Family Reclamation Project.

But there's a dark side to hanging with the awesome crowd, and in this case it's their annual family update letters, which make us look like tree sloths only with less ambition and imagination.  I mean, seriously, who could compete with the following?  (I am not making up any of this, except the things that I do, in fact, make up)
  • J & J, who spent two weeks cycling through Tuscanny on a tandem bicycle.  J & J also have three remarkable kids, one of whom is their beautiful daughter, M, who graduated from Stanford, which she attended on a rowing scholarship. 
  • C & S, who went to Ireland for their 25th wedding anniversary.
  • J & C, whose oldest son S graduated from Duke law school, finishing a perfect record of straight A's since kindergarten.  You heard me: Straight A's from kindergarten through college and finally Duke law.
  • P & S, who married off one of their darling daughters, and who sent pix of a vacation in an unnamed locale that seemed to be ancient ruin and history intensive.  These guys know how to travel; their letters always say things like "We enjoyed a family holiday on the International Space Station, followed by two weeks with the Norwegian Royal Family at their villa in Grundelmunne, Switzerland."  (OK, I made up that last one.  I think Grundelmunne is actually in Austria.)
  • L & E, who spent two weeks in the Holy Land.  E also has made it a tradition to travel to Germany every Christmas and buy gifts from the little Bavarian shops.  Their kids toured Asia, the Holy Land, and Europe.  And their daughter L is planning on doing her honors' thesis at Cambridge after a stint in South Africa.  Incidentally, their kids are so truly brilliant and so astonishingly hardworking, that they have never paid a dime in college expenses - we're talking tuition, books, housing, keg parties - all on scholarship money.  (Again, I kid.  BYU doesn't allow you to use your scholarship money for keg parties.  The kids have to cover those with government grants.)
So do you see what we're up against?  I mean, if we even knew just one loser family to feel superior to, our update letter might seem less pitiable.

Nevertheless, my kids are really great.  Despite my best efforts, they have grown up to be good, smart, faithful, funny, normal human beings.  And their achievements this year deserve more credit than what I gave them in our family letter.

So, starting with David: Along with getting engaged, he attended Leadership Training -- um, something starting with 'C' with the Army ROTC.  He gets great grades, is an incredibly loyal friend, absolutely adores his bride-to-be, calls his parents just to chat, and texts his grandmother regularly.  He also bought an engagement ring he could afford, and is planning a honeymoon with the same attention to fiscal sensibility.  That by itself is awesome.

Vanessa spent a semester touring England, Ireland, Wales, and finally Paris.  She's a good student, with too many talents and interests for her own good.  She's a fabulous photographer, and is always up for an adventure.  She, too, calls just to gab, texts us multiple times every day, and bakes rolls for her roommates.  She has a reputation for being able to stuff eleven tons of accumulated college crap into a student's car so they can travel home on their off-semester from BYU-I.  And she does it completely without shoehorns.

Corinne is a member of National Honor Society and is a volunteering machine.  She's very generous with her time and is also a fantastic student.  She attends both high school and college, and does so while working a job (at a place that got shot at and then robbed on the same day - while she was there! - and which she still refuses to quit because she's pretty sure she's having a good influence on one guy she works with.)  She has the best group of friends, all of whom attend the same school and who push one another to excel.

Jacob started high school and spent time on the cross country and wrestling teams.  He's a very kind boy, except when awakened earlier than noon.  And even then he apologizes and hands you back what's left of your head.  He loves his older sibs so much, when they go back to school after these long breaks he really struggles with loneliness.  He has a quick wit, he's active in our church youth group (the first of our four kids who happily attends the Wednesday night activities) and he's also a very loyal friend. 

There!  That's a better description of what my kids were up to during 2010.  I know it's not as exciting as the wonderful lives some of our dear friends are living, but we're happy to report our family is loving, happy, healthy, and not any weirder than yours.

Can't ask for more than that, now, can we?


Donna said...

I feel the same way about those "letters". I get tired just reading them. There are a few we read for sport....and one I know for sure spends their entire year doing things to put in the "letter" I know they look at each other before attempting anything to see if it is "letter" appropriate, or how will it sound in the "letter"?
Keep moving forward, keep being real, that is what most of us are anyway...the rest of them are medicated.

hellomynameissusan said...

So frequent reader but not frequent commenter here. This hit home big time. I read Annie's post about things you should put in (or not) for your Christmas letters & I tried. I should have plied you w/ millions of dollars (didn't have so that's why you didn't get!) & had you write it. But, it did go out. Oh & I linked to you in it as well.

Hel said...

I love it.

Could you tell your girls that even without you saying anything we all know that your family is one of "those" cool families? Somehow we already knew that your girls are awesome, that your boys are upstanding young men (WOW! imagine being excited about Wednesday nights...) and that your husband is one exceptional man (it's ok... I'm after him, I've got one of my own). You are all too talented for your own good. I'm glad you tend not to rub it in our faces. :)

Kristina P. said...

None of your kids cured cancer or herpes yet? Lame.

JoeinVegas said...

Wow, you do sound cool.

Karen Peterson said...

I kind of miss the days when my aunt used to fill up her Christmas letter with all kinds of made up crap or completely mundane things about my cousins. The best was the year she went on and on about how one of them, had realized his lifelong ambition of getting a job at Wal-Mart.

Lisa Loo said...

Great, now I feel like the Reclamation Project......

I'm with whoever said that somehow we just knew that in spite of your best efforts to hide it--your kids ARE the cool club :0) I mean really--look at who their Mom is...

InkMom said...

We received a letter a few years back from a mom of a missionary who went on and on about how he was dealing with his irritable bowel syndrome while away from home. I kid you not. And that's the tip of the ice berg.

I have a friend whose husband writes their Christmas letter, and I swear, he must write it and send it without letting her read it first because it's like he has a list of things that will offend her mother and then puts them all in at once. It's completely inappropriate and absolutely hilarious all at the same time. And a lot more fun to read than the litany of sanctimony you get from so many other places.

But . . . here's the thing. What does that say about me? About all of us? That we are so apt to compare ourselves that we don't want to hear about anything that might be possibly perceived as "better" than the things we have accomplished? I will grant that there are many, many letters out there that drip with self-satisfaction, but it's too easy to artificially assign that same characteristic to a truly sincere letter because of my own preconceived notions.

And . . . I've done it again. I. Think. Too. Much.

AS Amber said...

I haven't read the letter yet. I'm way excited to, though. You really do have freakin' awesome kids. And husband. And self.

And sister.

I'm thinking I'm going to actually send out a letter some time this year. I gotta figure out some crap to put in it, though.

L.T. Elliot said...

Your kids are way cool. Seriously, I read those and thought, "Well, we're screwed." And then I wondered how much I'd end up paying in therapy and court fines for when my children sic feral monkeys on us and I have to take them out with my neighbor's fence post. Because my neighbors are very serious about their fence, let me assure you.

JBSquared said...

I just love you. :)

The Crash Test Dummy said...

DeNae, I hear you. I don't read any of those letters anymore. I didn't even read your letter, just stuck your picture up on the wall, so I don't know anything about your kids who are majoring in "What time is it?" or the planet formerly known as Pluto. Hahahahahaha Those were my favorite lines of that letter I didn't read.

Tell Venessa I was a dance major, an el ed major, a psychology major, and an interior design major when I was at BYUI, formerly known as Ricks. And I was only there for one year.

You could publish that letter, btw.