My attempt to move from Southern California and create a happy and sustainable urban homestead in North Dakota, with some musings on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cummings/Chappell Environmentally Friendly Holiday Newsletter

Welcome to the Cummings/Chappell Environmentally Friendly Family Newsletter – 2010 Edition!!!

Holiday lights brighten the neighborhood, fattening confectionary treats abound, and a blanket of snow has fallen that covers up the previous layer of yellow snow.   That means the Holidays are here, and with their arrival you and your inbox are both being blessed with the greatest Holiday Sacrament known to humankind – the Cummings/Chappell Family Newsletter.  

2010 was our epic first full year in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Alycia’s first full year as a professor at the University of North Dakota.  We observed the full complement of North Dakota’s seasons: mud, mosquito/road construction, leaf raking, and painful bitter cold in their proper chronological order.  

Alycia has quickly become a student favorite on the UND campus, which on the one hand is flattering, but on the other hand comes with the obligation of writing dozens of grad school application letters over winter break.  Ahh, the burdens of being well loved...  She continues to teach and inspire the future Speech-Language Pathologists of North Eastern North Dakota, as well as doing clinical work helping small children in the local area with their speech production problems.  Her research lab on campus is now fully operational and is staffed by a loyal cadre of completely unpaid research assistants and does NO animal testing.  Alycia’s other firsts for the year included operating a snow blower and participating in an Irish drum circle for the first time (no I’m not making this up).  

Alycia finally succumbed to old triple jumping injuries this year. She had ankle surgery in May and was therefore able to continue the annual Cummings/Chappell family tradition of vacationing in a National Park while Alycia is on crutches.  We joined family from California for a wonderful low-speed week touring around Yellowstone National Park.  Alycia’s crutches were actually a blessing as they made us both slow and appreciate things we might have otherwise marched by in an attempt to see all the sights.  The pictures below are of John and Alycia in Yellowstone at the Mud Volcano and Alycia and John’s sister in Yellowstone at the Keppler Cascades. 
After more than 8 weeks on crutches, and being called a robot by more than one screaming crying child, Alycia had large enough biceps (we call these “guns” in the business) that John was wholly intimidated.  It probably didn’t help that she frequently wore sleeveless shirts while repeatedly flexing and yelling “you got your tickets to the gun show?!?!”  Luckily the gun show phase passed, physical therapy was attended, and the ankle healed, which enabled us to visit Las Vegas at the end of summer.  We met up with friends from California and spent a nice weekend pretending to be youthful and vibrant, and actually managed to stay up past midnight multiple evenings in a row.  

On the family front we celebrated John’s brother William’s wedding and proudly welcomed our new sister-in-law Christine to the Chappell family.  Welcome to the crazy house Christine!!  Good luck, you’re gonna need it.  We’re also looking forward to being an Aunt and Uncle for the very first time as my sister and her husband are expecting their first child in late January.  Even if our new niece/nephew isn’t blessed with red hair, we’ll still love ‘em. 

John’s major accomplishments for the year include learning to make local delicacies like Tater Tot Casserole, guest posting on a fine culinary blog (Thanks Sara!), learning to garden in Zone 3, and beginning a few minor woodworking projects.  He spent the year planting various apple trees, blueberry and currant bushes and setting up some of the infrastructure of the garden.  Spring will determine how many of aforementioned plants are still alive after the winter, but hopes run high, and like spring, our optimism blooms eternal.  John continued to make repeated trips back to San Diego for work purposes and enjoys being able to have a work vacation to his old hometown and visit family and friends.      

Tito spent the year like a fine wine, mellowing with age, but also like a fine wine, sitting in the dark remaining sedentary.  Actually in all fairness to Tito (which John rarely exhibits) many folks have commented how friendly and accepting of pets from strangers he has become, and he relishes trips to Alycia’s parents’ house where he can beg for meat treats and accompany Alycia’s Dad to and from, and to and from the Barbecue outside.  Since Tito never really changes (and he hates the camera), this year we’re going to include an old Tito picture, from when he was just a little puppy.   Those of you who know Tito are probably just as surprised as I am that he was actually once a cute little pup - a long time ago indeed.  The other picture of Tito is recent – note the orneriness, you can see it in his eyes…
Shaak Ti enjoyed her first full year in North Dakota and became well acquainted with the local squirrels and bunnies, and greatly enjoyed barking and chasing butterflies, dragonflies, falling leaves, and snowflakes, in that precise seasonal order, around the backyard.  In her second winter here in North Dakota she’s managed to grow a thicker fuller winter coat (eat your heart out premium shampoo marketers) which has enabled her to take longer winter walks and enjoy the snow to its fullest.  She’s currently thriving in her role as big sister and has dusted off many of the old wrestling moves that fell into disrepair when living with only Tito.  Huh?  You say.  Well that brings us to….
The big event of 2010 brought the memorable addition of yet another deaf dog to our family unit.  She’s a 5 month old pit bull puppy that was in a shelter in Texas, and through the magic of the Internet and the devotion of dog lovers from Texas to South Dakota who performed a mammoth dog transport relay, we were able to bring her into our home.  She’s a full fledged puppy tornado, fearless in the snow, wanting to play at all times, and then having epic crashes when the energy supply runs out.  Irrespective of the proud parent commentary, she’s very well behaved, sleeps through the night, has good manners, takes very well to training, has been accident free (hopefully this doesn’t jinx it), plays very well with Shaak Ti, and ignores Tito most of the time, which is all Tito really wants.  Alycia’s parents were initially reluctant when they heard she was a pit bull, but it took only a few hours upon the first trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for their hearts to be won over by snuggles and kisses and puppy happiness of our magical little pup.        
Oddly, we got motivated to complete a few unfinished projects around the house and will be finishing our basement this winter, which means soon there will a lovely bedroom suite for guests.  So except for the expensive plane ticket and distance from anywhere, you’ll have no excuse not to visit!  Most of John’s family (Dad, sister, and brother-in –law) came to visit during the Potato Bowl festivities in September and had so much fun that they’re already planning their return trip (seriously, I’m not kidding).  Below are pictures of John and his Dad on a hike at Turtle River State Park and the requisite picture of the whole family with the moose in front of Cabela’s.
We wish you the happiest of Holiday seasons and a productive and fruitful New Year.  Thank you to all of our family and friends, near and far, four legged and two legged who make our lives brighter.  We love you all.  Our last picture is of Alycia, Tito, and Shaak Ti.  John was out of town when they had the picture sitting (for a small donation to the Humane Society you get two free 5 x 7’s; it’s pretty sweet), and we didn’t have the puppy yet, so don’t freak out that the whole family isn’t in the picture.  We’ve also added a second bonus picture of John and the puppy so you get a complete montage of the family unit. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Everyone!!!

1 comment:

lifeshighway said...

Thanks for including me in your holiday newsletter. Even though I am just a fan and not a friend of the family, I enjoy reading about my favorite bloggers to put a face on the writing.

Hope you continue to have a great holiday.