Happy holidays, Friends and Family!  School tends to be the focus of our family life these days, so here is a glimpse into everyone’s goings-on, through a scholastic lens.

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The Scholar: Jordan continues to love all things academic. She made the transition to elementary school seamlessly and loves everything about first grade. At home, she can usually be found playing on school-related websites, creating an elaborate picture or craft, or effortlessly completing an activity book well above her age level. She still loves to read and has thoroughly enjoyed the Nancy Drew series this year. We do believe we have a budding detective on our hands. Most mysteries around here are solved quickly, as Jordan’s little siblings tend to be the most obvious suspects in every case. Aspiring to be: a teacher.

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The Cheerleader: When not bouncing and tumbling around the house, Keira spends her time showering those around her with encouraging words and compliments. She admires her big sister and adores her little brother. She attacks her daddy with “owie hugs” everyday after work. I get all of the unprompted, “Mommy, I love you”s and random acts of affection throughout the day. She loves her preschool class and all of her school and neighborhood buddies. Keira dabbled in gymnastics this fall, and took group swim lessons throughout the summer and fall. Despite her affinity for athletics (and her natural abilities), you will rarely see her wearing anything other than a fancy dress or tutu at home. Aspiring to be: a “gymnasticker.”

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The Jock: Not sure they get more boyish than this one. Take a drive with Theo and plan to get a tutorial on construction vehicles, prepare yourself for shrieks when you pass a cherry picker, and don’t be alarmed when he freaks out because you didn’t stop to let him climb into the excavator he is sure to spy wherever you go. At home, he’ll build a great track for his favorite trains, but watch out when he’s done–debris will fly. He loves all sports, and has been having an especially hard time staying in his bed on Sunday nights because he’d rather “watch football with Daddy.” That said, I have more than one picture of him brutishly ramming trucks together while donning my red high heel shoes. (Keep an eye out for one of those to mysteriously appear at his wedding reception!) Aspiring to be: a trash collector. Find us any Thursday following the trash truck around our neighborhood, frequently parking and getting out for a closer look!

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Principal/Gym teacher: Energized by an improved diet and exercise regimen, Eric is leading our family to a healthier existence. Some of our favorite memories of the kids this year have involved them doing kickboxing and yoga with Eric. The rest of his time is spent working (still with Guilford Group, LLC), traveling (usually to Jacksonville), and enjoying his weekends with the family. A typical Saturday involves a hike and a jaunt around a nearby playground, a trip through Costco, and hopefully a snoozle (a nap where you snuggle) with one of his cuddly kids. Aspiring to be: healthier at 40 than he was at 30.

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Teacher/nurse/janitor/lunch lady/bus driver: After a brief leave of absence following heart surgery in February, I resumed my list of assorted duties as a stay at home mom of three. This year, however, there doesn’t seem to be much staying at home. With the van full of carseats, our crew, and carpool friends, we spend lots of time on the road. While not in motion, I can usually be found volunteering in one of the kids’ classes, trying to get through a workout without numerous interruptions, or finding a fun activity to do with the kids on their days off. During those few quiet moments before bed, I do often manage to enjoy reading a bookclub book. Aspiring to be: patient.

Favorite field trip: Florida tour in November 2012. Fortunately, the flu didn’t hit us until after our inaugural trip to Disney World and our wonderful visit with Eric’s extended family in Clearwater. Phew! Thanks, again, Nana and Papa for nursing us during the rest of our vacation.

Favorite group activity: Family dance parties. If you glance inside our bare front windows, you may get an awesome picture of all of us gettin’ down — most recently to Phillip Phillips and Justin Bieber!

Wishing you a very happy holiday season!

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While I can’t imagine that we will experience an uninteresting year anytime in the near future, this has been a particularly interesting year. It’s tough to highlight every exciting thing and all the people who have been a part of our life, but here are a few things that stood out about the year.

The cold months were blurry with Clair recovering from an open heart surgery that she had in November, 2010. Despite the surgery being reported as a success, there were several weeks of her being on a lift restriction — with a small enough weight limit she could not pick up any of our kids. As is often the case with these things, more friends than we knew we had came from all corners of the world to help with meals, driving kids, watching kids, cleaning and visiting. It was humbling and touching.

By springtime, Clair was fully recovered and the family spent some months enjoying a return to normalcy. The highlight of our spring was the joy of remembering how great normal life is.

The highlight of the summer was a trip to Frisco, Colorado for a family reunion. When Clair’s family is together, it’s a total of 40 siblings, spouses and kids. We had such a good time with everyone and loved Colorado. The weather was perfect, the town was smallish and friendly, the scenery breathtaking. Seriously. I don’t ever recall being in awe of nature until we drove through a mountain pass between Boulder and Idaho Springs. We hope to spend many weeks there in the coming years.

In early fall, the girls and I discovered that we love to go on hikes together. We made several visits to Holliday Park, Brown County State Park and Turkey Run state part. Theo joined us a time or two and impressed us with his endurance and drive to explore.

We also received some bad news this fall. I’m not a doctor, but I believe the medically accurate way of describing the situation is that the valve that Clair had installed in 2010 is jacked. Over the last few months, we’ve spent a lot of time talking to Cardiologists, surgeons and friends who are doctors about what to do next. Unfortunately, the best thing for Clair and our family is to have another surgery as soon as possible. We are planning this now, but I would imagine we’d have it performed in late January or early February. I’ll provide updates here on the blog as well as on Facebook (friend me at ericmwhite at gmail dot com) and twitter (@ericmwhite).

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a great friend to us. We hope you enjoy the holidays! Keep in touch in 2012.

Nothing is too steep for Theo to climb, no ball too heavy to throw, no surface too high to jump from. He is the master of finding ways to get through baby gates and child proof locks.

He also enjoys outings with Baba (Grandpa Ken), where he has discovered the wonders of the Children’s Museum and the culinary delights of Dunkin Donuts. Among his many helpful talents are sweeping and wiping up his messes, putting laundry into machines, handling trash, and vacuuming whenever he can.

As brutish as he seems when chucking dollhouse furniture at unsuspecting victims, he is equally as nurturing when he detects that one of his sisters or baby dolls needs comforting.

A fun fact about Theo is that when you see him, he generally is only wearing one sock on his left foot. And he trips a lot.

If you were to arrive at our house at any given point in the day, you would likely find Keira standing on the arm of a couch, readying herself to take a Nestea plunge backward onto the cushions.

You might also find her climbing across the top of the play kitchen, or on a kitchen counter scavenging for food in the upper cabinets. If you stand in the room long enough, you will eventually feel her arms wrapped around your legs, giving you one of her famous “owie hugs” (owie in that she squeezes so tight it hurts), and noticing then commenting on the good things about you. Before leaving, you surely would have seen her change from play clothes into a fancy dress, then into a princess dress-up gown, and finally into a ballet leotard and tights.  She, too, is an amazing hiker.

If you see her outside, you might also find her running down a hill (pretending with Jordan to be the Ingalls sisters).

Her favorite parts of the day are rocking Theo before bed, mealtimes, snack times, and outings to restaurants. (Noting the trend?) Keira is gracious, generous, very active, and super affectionate — expressing her love verbally and physically all day long.

Jordan keeps busy growing up and trying to run the household. She started Kindergarten this fall and loves the relationships with other kids as well as everything she is learning.  Her favorite activities include producing, directing and starring in ballet productions at home, creating elaborate dollhouse dramas, making crafty gifts, reading and writing. Her command of the stage extends to all the pretend play at home – an ambition that occasionally rankles her not always compliant younger siblings. Outside the house, she loves going on hikes and mango juice dates with me. It is fascinating for us to see her abilities to solve problems, learn and apply new concepts, and find creative ways to show love to others. We are also impressed with her super powers and song writing abilities…

This is the intro to a short story I’ve been working on, called “The Ground”. I hope you enjoy it.

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From the low hanging clouds that stretched from one end of northern Alabama sky to the other, huge drops of rain splashed against my motorcycle helmet that was a little too big for my head. My speedometer said I was traveling at 70 miles per hour, but despite the thunderstorm, cars and semis were racing past me. The spray of water and the powerful wind left in the wake of the larger trucks caused my motorcycle to wobble beneath me. I felt the fear of death for the first time in my life. The fear was primal, something way down inside me, like hope or lust.

I was riding north on I-65 and on the right I saw a farmer leading two cows out of the rain, into a red wooden barn. I thought of Noah, catching and taming all those animals, leading them to the ark. I imagined myself back then, back when the rains of The Flood started. I imagined myself, not inside the ark with the animals and the righteous, but outside as the rain started, grew stronger and collected in to puddles, then ponds. That religious nut, Noah, had said the rain wouldn’t stop, and when I realized he was right, I screamed and banged on the side of that boat, feeling the water rise around me, to my waist, my chest, my neck. When I realized it wouldn’t stop, I clawed at the boat, digging my fingernails into the wood until my fingertips were raw and the water rose to my chin, then my lips, then the skin beneath my septum, then into my nostrils. The water streaming through my windpipe judged me unfit for the next world, the one with color. The next world that started out with two of everything: Two dogs, two mosquitoes, two polar bears. In that world, there would be no question that the chicken came before the egg.

I looked down at two rubber tires, gripping the wet road beneath me. The rain was driving in to the skin on my neck and arms, soaking in to my t-shirt and jeans. When I moved my feet around, I could feel rain squishing between my tennis shoes and socks. Ahead, I saw a dead opossum in my lane. As I approached it, the stench mixed with the moist smell of rain and started a parade of unpleasant memories, which I assumed to be my judgment.

I remembered the time my high school girlfriend came to my house wearing denim overall shorts, her hands deep inside her pockets. She asked me if it was true that I had cheated on her and then why. I lied to her, but she pursed her mouth and hit my ear with her fist. She turned and walked to her car with her fists clinched. She was crying as she drove away. The shame of seeing myself in this memory was blunted by the sweetness of the sin that came before it and which still lingered vividly in my mind, 15 years later, as I rode a 1986 Honda Rebel through the rain, past a dead opossum.

I remembered the time, years before, when my little brother, Jonah, appeared in our living room dressed in black pants, a red leather jacket with zippers everywhere and a white glove on his right hand. He strutted to the stereo, started a tape and danced Michael Jackson’s whole routine from the Beat It video on the hardwood floor in front of us. He finished his performance, which I knew he had been rehearsing for weeks, and stood before us. I laughed and my parents clapped. I could still remember the tears that pricked at his eyes and how he stood there with that white gloved hand dangling at his side, weighing my laughter against my parents praise. That was the first time I hurt someone on purpose and there was nothing in that memory to numb the pain of it now.

I pulled off at the next exit and parked my bike at a Citgo station. Inside the door, I stood next to a 4 foot map of Alabama and bit in to a scalding hot, gooey bean and cheese microwave burrito. Moving my thumb and forefinger against the map, I calculated that I had traveled about 175 miles since I left Monroeville, Alabama six hours earlier. Six hours ago in Monroeville, the sun was still shining and there was no water pooled in the red clay dirt above my brother’s grave.

My task: Imagine an accident. Write 3 versions of the accident: a one-sentence summary, a one-paragraph summary, and finally a scene.

Warning: Kinda bloody.

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At 11:57am yesterday, a black Cadillac Escalade collided at full speed with a navy blue Saab that turned left into its path at the intersection of Carmel Drive and Guilford Avenue in Carmel, IN. 

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I was eating a sandwich at my desk yesterday, catching up on Facebook when right outside my office window a blue Saab turned left in front black Cadillac Escalade which was driving at full speed through a green light. There were three teenage girls in the Saab. The only one who was hurt was the girl in the front passenger seat who had a cut on her face from the impact of the airbag. There were also three people in the Escalade. The woman who was driving also had cut on her face from the airbag and her six–month-old daughter had cuts from broken glass. Her five-year-old boy, who was unrestrained in the third row of the truck had a broken neck and spinal injuries. 

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I heard a honk then breaking tires then the crunch of metal colliding with metal and looked up from my desk to see glass spray in all directions. I saw the head of the driver of a black Escalade lunge forward toward her steering wheel, the muscles in her neck tightening and her mouth stretching out into the shape of an oval. She forced her eyes shut then disappeared behind the airbag as it burst in to her face. Her Escalade was coasting straight toward me but slammed in to a silver light post 10 feet outside my office window. 

To her left was a navy blue Saab spinning clockwise and coming to rest abruptly against the bank of the sidewalk. The back passenger door had been crushed by the impact and the girl in the front passenger seat was holding her face.

I stood up and put down my meatball sub. The woman in the Escalade reached her hands up to her bloody face, pulled them downward then together, siphoning blood on to her low-cut blouse and inside between her breasts. Once her face was clear she ran to the rear passenger door. Through the missing windshield I could see a baby in the backseat with her mouth open in the same oval shape as her mother’s.

Though the accident happened right in front of me, I took me two minutes to jog out of my office, 200 feet down a corridor to a rear exit, then around the back of the building to the scene of the accident.

Outside I heard emergency vehicles approaching. Three girls in soccer uniforms emerged from the Saab, all wearing white jerseys with the word “Carmel High School” in blue script and black shorts with black socks pulled up over their calves to just under their knees. The driver sat on the sidewalk, sobbing in to a cell phone.

I heard the Escalade woman screaming, “Jesus Christ” over and over. I ran to her and she thrust her baby at me then climbed over the bench in to the third row of seats. The baby was wearing blue jeans and a loose fitting pink onesie with a yellow duck on the chest and the words “Daddy’s Little Ducky” written beneath. I inspected her and noticed what I assumed to be her mother’s blood on the onesie. The baby howled as her mother yelled at someone in the backseat.

Traffic was backed up 50 cars in all four directions as the two cars, four of the passengers, broken glass, a navy Saab bumper and I were blocking north to south traffic. Cars traveling east to west could pass through the intersection, but were stopped to watch.

I cradled the screaming baby against my chest with my left arm beneath her butt and my right hand against the back of her head. I bounced myself gently up and down and said in to her ear, “It’s going to be alright, Ducky.” She shrieked and clawed at my face, so I patted her back once with my right hand. When I did, I pushed shards of glass, hidden beneath her onesie, deeper in to her skin. She arched her back and howled and I fought back the vomit I felt rising in my throat.