Saluti delle vacanze dal Fergusons Parker. Quest’anno è stato abbastanza movimentato. Sia Nolan e Kyra ora sono al liceo, e tutta la famiglia è andato in Italia. We’ll resist the urge to do the entire Christmas newsletter in Italian this year, although the thought crossed our minds. Without a doubt the highlight of this year was a family trip to Italy. To prepare for the trip, Byron listened to Italian in the car, on the computer, and while mowing the lawn for nearly 6 weeks. After all that studying, he was able to say… barely enough to get by in Italy. In fact, we admit to getting Google to translate some English to Italian for our opening line- so if it’s bad, blame Google.
January through March found the Fergusons in a full out production of “Beauty and the Beast Jr.” at Challenge To Excellence charter school. Many parents and staff assisted (Mrs.
Hubbs, Carlson, and Karge especially). This year, though, unlike year’s past, the show found a sucker.. I mean, volunteer, that single-handedly designed and manufactured almost all of the show’s elaborate costumes- Mrs. Patchett. For those unfamiliar with the time-consuming costuming task- we’d compare the task to building a ½ scale replica of the Eiffel tower out of toothpicks or traveling around the world on a clown unicycle- twice. Mrs. Patchett’s costumes may have stolen the show, and even after all that work she still seems willing to do it again. Incredible!
In addition to fantastic costumes, the show featured two pretty incredible leads acted by Nolan and Kyra. Byron and Toni never “gave” the kids parts, and these parts were earned not given, too. It turns out both kids can sing. Their mother, Toni, claims to sing like Mariah Carey but both Nolan and Kyra disagree. In the only musical Byron was ever in, the musical director broke into tears and quit. Fortunately for Nolan and Kyra, the singing gene appears to skip a generation and they both have it. Kyra cheerfully played the slightly bossy Cogsworth the Clock. Nolan comically played Gaston- loved by the local wenches, but despised by Belle. What a fantastic finish to their time in “Mom and Dad’s” conceived school theater. We hope we kindled a theater spark that will make them friends and fun in some theater experience later in life- or at least provides hours of entertainment for a therapist someday many years from now.
In April, after much deliberation (ok, not that much deliberation), Byron left his job of seven years with MDC, Holdings aka Richmond American Homes. Byron loved his curved corner office and view of the mountains that was frankly way above his pay grade and would have eventually been poached by a director or V.P., but finally had to concede that the rest of the benefits had long went the way of the home building industry. Packing his programming and management library, magnetic toys, and extensive potato head collection into boxes, Byron headed across town to a new job with new responsibilities with CUNet (a division of Nelnet) that collects leads for for-profit universities. Now, only 6 months after starting that job, (his potato head collection still unpacked) Byron is again switching jobs, but this time within Nelnet to another larger division. With a little luck, he’ll be there long enough to unpack some toys.
In May, Nolan & Kyra graduated from their K-8 charter school. As the first class of Kindergartners in the school, their class graduation held special significance for the students, staff, and parents. Plus, there was free cake, so it was particularly special.
Graduation flipped some biological “teen gene” in both Nolan and Kyra. Nolan instantly began growing a giant mustache, speaking in a deep baritone, and commenting on how little his parents knew. Kyra also got in on the act by demanding trendier clothes, downloading Kelly Clarkson tracks, and also commenting on how little her parents knew. Byron and Toni, several IQ points dumber, to hear their kids tell it, managed the day to day care for more intelligent teens surprising well, even with their stunted IQ.
Imbued with their now near supernatural intelligence, Nolan and Kyra received invitations in May to join the nation’s leaders in Washington D.C; at least that’s what we told them, it was actually just a tour put together by their 8th grade teacher, a.k.a Mrs. DiGeorge. Nolan and Kyra, along with other 8th grade students who believed they were now smarter than their parents, toured multiple historical D.C. sites including: the Smithsonian, Lincoln Monument, Arlington, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Too bad they didn’t make it to the White House, or Congress; because, come to think of it, these 8th graders probably ARE smarter than our politicians and might have solved our economic crisis.
High school started almost immediately on the kids’ return from D.C. Summer football and tennis camps, orientations, and conferences, kept the Ferguson kids and their on-call taxi driver parents shuttling between home, work, and Legend High School (home of the Titans) throughout the summer. Byron and Toni scanned news media obsessively, and without success, for report of the massive black hole or corresponding time warp to explain suddenly being parents of high schoolers, but without success.
As part of the “high school experience,” both Nolan and Kyra are participating in high school sports. Nolan, who until now played only flag football, joined high school football- the one with tackling. Toni insisted that Byron be in charge of everything football. Like a mafia Don, she whispered threateningly to Byron before signing Nolan’s permission slip, “anything happens to my boy…” Byron tried desperately to talk Nolan out of what now seemed unnecessarily risky- at least for Byron.
Unable to talk Nolan out of football, Byron spent much of the season trying to fully understand the complexities of American football. Byron, never athletic himself, once received a letter from his 6th grade teachers encouraging his parents to play more sports with him, since he often preferred to play “Star Trek” on the school’s jungle gym at recess. Byron’s tech roots did, however, come in handy when running statistical analysis on Nolan’s injury risks.
Now, Kyra is signed up for tennis in the spring. Byron’s research leads him to believe tennis is significantly less risky than football. Toni, too seems less concerned about tennis. Delighted to be a tennis mom, Toni spends hours online looking for the cutest tennis outfits. Regardless of her record, Kyra will no doubt be the cutest dressed tennis player on the court. If from tennis, Kyra gets in as good a shape as Nolan, too, then perhaps Byron’s 6th grade teachers were on to something.
In October, the Fergusons traveled to Italy. While many travel to Italy for its temperate weather, fine wines, and ancient architectural splendors, we chose Italy primarily because it’s shaped like a boot. Byron’s sister Diane subsidized this trip much like she has many of our most interesting adventure, with the plan to meet us in Italy. More on that- later.
Italian drivers take their driving seriously, and Byron intended to do the same in Italy. Based on Italian traditions Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Bugatti, Byron felt his driving skills would finally be recognized in Italy. The rental car, a Nissan Micra, however, seemed barely capable of holding a family of four and luggage, let alone racing along an autobahn. In addition, the pre-collected $1000 deposit, and finding our Micra next to a now smashed version of the same car, firmly dashed Byron’s racing hopes. Toni confiscated Byron “Mario Andretti’” Ferguson’s keys and named herself designated Italy driver.
The Fergusons drove north (much more slowly with Toni at the wheel) from Rome to Santa Marinella, a vacation beach resort where they rented a Villa for the week. On day one, the Fergusons rested, relaxed, and carb loaded in anticipation of the rest of their week in Italy.
Day two started the Ferguson’s vacation in earnest. Byron, wearing the official American tourist uniform of shorts, white socks, and tennis shoes, let the rest of the family know he was disappointed with their distinctly less loud clothing choices. Toni, in return, chided Byron for not going all the way with his uniform and adding sandals to his white socks.
At the S. Marinella train station, Byron entered the small station shop to buy tickets. “Quattro bichicletti per Roma Termini,” he said. Another 5 minutes of ear pulling, arm chopping, and air guitar type “charades” worked out whether the tickets were one-way or round-trip. Tickets in hand, and one transfer in Rome, and a bullet-train ride later, the Fergusons arrived in Pompeii. The Fergusons wandered the centuries old cobblestone and ruins reading from Rick Steve’s tour book and soaking in the history. Finally, exhausted from roaming the expansive property, the Fergusons abandoned the culture of Pompeii for gelato just outside the gate.
After their gelato, the clan stopped off in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, for dinner. Carefully ordering salami piccante (hot salami) and not pepperoni (peppers), the Fergusons received four perfect pizzas. Piping hot, covered with fresh cheese, fresh marinara, and other yumminess, the Fergusons couldn’t get enough of their giant plate covering pizzas. Kyra, unable to finish her huge calzone, actually shed a few tears knowing she couldn’t take her leftovers with us on the train.
Florence stood out as another highlight of our Italy trip, or possibly how we got around Florence. Unbeknownst to Nolan and Kyra, Toni reserved a Segway tour for the family. For those who have never ridden a Segway- you should know riding one initially feels a bit like falling. Nolan, rebelled at the sensation, and wished to abandoned the Segway plan altogether asking, “can we just rent some bikes?” Undaunted and insistent, practice continued. After proficient we proceeded. Byron, following the tour guide, throttled up, dodged a pedestrian, and promptly crashed. Toni immediately felt justified in not letting Byron drive the rental car. With Byron now riding slower, the tour continued with its sacrilegious juxtaposition of technology against tradition. At least one Italian could be heard muttering obscenities to himself as the Ferguson’s buzzed by another Basilica- but again with Byron’s limited Italian, we were unable to translate and proceeded blissfully unaware.
Our next stop was Venice to meet Byron’s sister Diane. Arriving late at night, however, Diane was no where to be found. Enlisting the aid of a taxi with our last cash Euros, we drove to the last address we had for Diane’s rented Venice apartment. Knocking on the door, we found not Byron’s sister, but a sleepy somewhat frightened tenant who directed us to the landlord’s house next door. After waking the tenant once more to escape the yard’s locked gate, the Fergusons met the landlords, signed some identification and gained entrance to the apartment to wait the arrival of Diane. Fortunately, only a short period later, Diane and her husband arrived. The Fergusons, mostly happy they hadn’t landed up in an Italian jail turned in for the night.
In Venice, the Fergusons boated around Venice and toured Burano. Burano, a quaint seaside island village known for lace work, does not receive the Nolan seal of approval. Lunching at a Burano cafe, Byron, Toni, and Kyra ordered various pastas- Nolan, who had gone days without American food happily ordered “hamburger” on the menu. In Italy, or at least at this cafe, however, a hamburger is a patty on a plate, no bun. The rest of the family laughed, but frankly we think Nolan was just as happy with his hamburger steak as if it did have a bun.
The Fergusons last stop on their Italian trip was Rome. Byron, who carried rain gear all week, abandoned it only to be met by rain on arrival in Rome. Street vendors bearing umbrellas immediately accosted the wet foursome. Byron and Toni instantly responded with their good buyer – bad buyer routine. Haggling, the pair began talking the vendor down from 10 euros. Nolan, the honest Ferguson, chimed in with ““Why are you trying to cheat him, he said 10 euros.” “Nolan, shush,” said Toni. “Seven?” asked the vendor? “No not seven,” said Toni. “What about 7 for two?” said Byron. Nolan chimed in again, “he said 7 for one!” “Toni, stressed, finally barked at Nolan, “Nolan, shut up!” Nolan chided, remained silent while we got two umbrellas for seven euros. Disgusted with his thieving parents, he still consented to ride out the storm and stay dry under one of the Ferguson’s illicitly gained umbrellas- but appeared none too happy about it.
Surprisingly or not surprisingly depending on your view of matters religious, the rain let up before arriving at the Vatican. Toni the Catholic distanced herself from the Byron the atheist as she prepared herself for the disappointment of having him burst into flames. Byron, who had dental work the week before, did notice some “chewing on tin foil” sensation as he neared “Pope City,” but did not, in fact, burst into flames. Racing through hallways full of pope busts, tapestry, and sculpture, the family arrived at the Sistine chapel. Even with the very low lighting designed to protect the paintings, the sight awes. Still, exactly like Disneyland, the Sistine chapel “ride” exits into the gift shop. Filled with religious icons; books, and replicas, Byron could not find, however, classics like Pope on a rope soap, or funny Pope hats. Byron, filled out a comment card for the Pope. Toni thinks Byron should keep his heathen suggestions to himself.
The Fergusons finished their Rome excursion with visits to the Coloseum (closed due to rain but still impressive), Trevi fountain, and the Spanish steps. One vendor sold full price roses to Byron, which appeared to make Nolan happy, and back at the train station Byron bought some “my parents went to Italy but all I got was this lousy T-Shirt” for Nolan and Kyra, and some world-famous Roman saltwater taffy for Toni, and considered his souvenir mission complete, and the Fergusons could return home- even without a funny pope hat.
Back in America, the Ferguson’s finished out their year pining away for Italian pizza and Segways. Uneventful October and November were followed by a milestone December. Someone in our family turned 50. Byron is forbidden from saying who- but her initials are Toni. As part of Toni’s celebration Toni decided to get tattooed with a four-leafed antique rose with the word Mom in her mom’s handwriting. The leaves represents her siblings while the rose is a memorial to her mother. Byron resisted Toni’s suggestion to also get a tattoo on his behind that said “Property of Antonia Marie Perez-Ferguson,” instead preferring to receive intentional pain only at the dentists office. Toni claims she has sworn off any additional tattoos, but we note she seems to like Tim Tebow (Bronco’s quarterback) quite a bit. Maybe Toni’s next tattoo will be the number 15. We wish you a very special Christmas without intentional pain, a Happy New Year, and , to paraphrase Charles Dickens,
“God Bless us every one- and Go Broncos, said Tiny Tim Tebow, the last of all.”