Christmas Letter 2011...2012...2013
Merry Christmas To All,
Once again I punted on the 2012 Xmas letter and did a minimalist olde-tyme telegram (1) for 2011 so I pretty much missed informing you of any developments from the past 3 years. So, with a swift kick from Michelle I am putting words to paper-probably too many. Now let me 'splain...no...let me sum up.
Michelle went to Miami for some reason, Isabelle and her friend Kendra won 2nd in the middle school science fair, we took a visit to our old haunt the Capron Zoo in Attleborough with Kendra in tow (2) and that was the first 3 months of 2011-whew.
The kids and I visited my brother John and his family (3) (4) in NY where we rode in an underground boat in Howe Caverns (5) , went to Ellis Island (6) & the Statue of Liberty (7) (8) (the boys stuck their heads up a replica of her face (9) and Isabelle rolled her eyes), toured a Vanderbilt Mansion, checked out Saratoga National Park (10) and, most importantly, did a drive-by of Carlos' Bakery in Hoboken, baby! (11).
By May, Sam had made his last foray into band (12), having decided that it was not for him while Isabelle continued and marched in the Memorial Day Parade with the Chatels and Grammie & Papa up to see her. Isabelle's friend Madison (13) ran over to the festivities in her bare feet to see her play.
June brought much silliness in the form of Isabelle's birthday party where the girls danced, ate cake, and all got married to each other. I think the marriages have been annulled but I can't be certain (14). June also saw the arrival of our bunny Zelda (15) and I built some cages for her buds Hazel, Oreo, and Ruby.
Canada (16) beckoned in August with a hearty "ay" so we got our passports, brushed up on our fractured-French and headed north for a few days to Montreal (no French needed-frowny face). It was a whirlwind tour of the McGill University Museum, the Biodome (17), Botanical Gardens (18) (19), Insectarium (20), and the Basilica (21). Of course, with Sam, the highlight was room service (22) at our Hotel and swimming in the top floor pool. We even had a stopover at Fort Ticongeroga in NY on the way home (23) (24) (25) (26). But wait, there's more! We went to Ocean Beach (27) (28) with Grammie & Papa and Sam celebrated his birthday with a Pikachu (29) cake made by me (I AM THE CAKE BOSS). Finally, in August I took up the hammer & saw and made Sam a custom desk for his room-came out pretty good and I am looking into starting Ed's Bakery and Woodcraft Emporium.
In September Isabelle (30) and Sam (31) started 8th and 5th grades, respectively.
October was a great time for Michelle to take the kids to Six Flags (I'm too old to have fun) and Michelle went to her first (of many) zombie doll-making (32) parties with her friends. The dolls are creepy and our porch is now crawling with these hideous things. No...more... zombie dolls. The late October blizzard (33) threatened Halloween but it couldn't stop Isabelle and Sam from gathering tons of candy for their parents.
In November Sam designed a bird feeder and we constructed it together-the birds and squirrels share squatting rights. We had a nice December hike at Dunn's pond and took some family pictures (34), a few of which accompanied the Xmas telegram.
I can't remember exactly when we lost poor Pumpkin but she lived a long, hamster life so we can't feel too sad. Finally, Michelle equated my expertise at painting Sam's room and the bathroom to a love of the thing and put me to work in the master bedroom. After stripping wallpaper, refinishing the walls, priming, painting, and moving all of the furniture back into place, Michelle decided after 3 days that she didn't like the color so I had to redo the paint. I think she just wanted to make her friend who shall remain nameless (Megan) proud. I begrudgingly agree that it was the right choice. So, that was 2011 in a very large, meandering nutshell.
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So, 2012 started with me rebuilding/repainting our bed (1). For years our bed had no footboard and was a bit unstable. Now it is solid. Sam, and to a lesser degree Isabelle, discovered Minecraft and we welcomed our ant farm pals (Xmas present) (2). They were fun to watch but didn't last too long.
In April Isabelle and Kendra (3) cooked up 1st place in the Middle School Science Fair this time by growing...something fuzzy in gelatin. On our way home from one of our MANY trips to Grammie's we took in the Lupa Zoo (4) in Ludlow and on another occasion Sam & I went to the Indian Motorcycle Museum (5) - not just cycles and very, very cool. The kids and I took another trip to NY to see John and family (6) (7) and we took in more local sites like the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor (8) (9), a country store (has animals), and a nature sanctuary (more animals) (10).
In May Sam did his Alexander Graham Bell impersonation (11) for the living history exhibit at school and in June Isabelle and her friends "graduated" from Middle School (12). Somewhere in there was a brief stint with a boyfriend and a couple of losers after that but I think she has now sworn off boys. That's a relief.
In the summer Sam and I went up to the Montshire Museum of Science (13) and the Hood Museum of Art in VT while Michelle and Isabelle were off doing girly things. We stopped at an outdoor maze (14) (15) in the 90+ degree heat-I think we were close to passing out that day but we survived to tell the tale. In July Michelle and I picked out some new appliances (very exciting).
In August we took a trip to Martha's Vineyard to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We went with with Grammie and Papa which was pretty normal for us but we had skipped it last year. This time was a bit different because Michelle's sister Kim and her son Cameron came for a few days too. Sam and Cameron (16) blew many quarters at the arcade in Oak Bluffs and got some henna tattoos (17). We took in the World of Reptiles & Birds (18) again. Of course, there was much hanging out (19) and beach time (20) (21), as well, and we managed to sneak Bailey (22) (23) onto the beach while we were killing time waiting for the ferry (24) (25). The end of August brought Isabelle's first foray into band camp (26) (one time, at band camp...), a grueling week-long drill session. The effort showed; at the end of the week they were a well-oiled machine and Isabelle discovered the camaraderie of bandmates. She then started High School and Sam entered the Middle School as a 6th grader.
Sam got braces (27) and at the end of October he was trick-or-treating (28) solo as Isabelle was now too "mature" for it. Michelle brought home more zombie dolls.
By the end of November Michelle was laid off from BD (pretty nerve-wracking) but by December she was well on the road to becoming queen of her new company DVS. The severance from BD paid off bills and many of her BD friends got new jobs fairly quickly so a big WHEW. Xmas was good to the kids with Isabelle getting her own laptop (for which we are STILL waiting for a thank you) (29) and Sam got an Xbox and the biggest Lego set ever (30) - it overwhelmed him a bit, I think! Somewhere in 2012 we lost another furry creature, Star (31). Again, she lived a nice long, gerbil life so we survived. At some point Michelle and Isabelle ran the Zombie Run with Mike Chatel, Rhessa, Nancy, and Dayna and they got plenty covered in mud but had a lot of fun (despite the fact that Mike's leg bled about a quart). Oh, and Michelle and her mom continued knocking out knitting miracles.
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This year turned out to be a humdinger (yeh, I'm 80 years old). Sam and I took advantage of Isabelle's February visit to Madison's by seeing some sites. After dropping her off at the Cape we veered west to Battleship Cove (1) in Fall River to check out the USS Massachusetts (2) and we got to the Roger Williams Zoo (3) in RI about 30 minutes prior to closing for a rapid-fire and very cold visit. We posed as this lady's husband and child and she got us in for free too! (OK, not exactly the type of thing I do but she insisted). In the same month we took a jaunt up to NH to see the Budweiser factory and enjoy some Indian food. March brought the arrival of a new species to the house, Marcelline the rat (4). She's pretty cool and only bites if you put your fingers up to the cage.
Since Grammie got a new dog it was time for Bailey to get some socializing training in April. Otherwise, we would never be able to visit my mother-in-law with Bailey in tow and I would have had to stay home with him...Doh! what the heck did I do? He did great and even had a 5 day vacation at the trainer's place. Meanwhile, we did some hanging with Madison at a diner (5) and the Capron Park Zoo (6) (7) in Attleboro. Plus, Sam started track - sprinting & long jump (8) (9). He has now way surpassed me in number of sports (me-1 Sam-3). Ironically, I ran track and my father did baseball so Sam has figuratively run in our footsteps. Also in April the kids & I went up to Maine to visit the Simpson clan (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15). Bobby's old band Misty Bliss was being honored and the kids got to hang a little bit with their cousin Dustin. On the way home Sam jumped into the ocean at York, clothes and all (16). That would have been something I would have done when I was young so I was a proud man. Isabelle rolled her eyes (she was nearly 15, you see). While we were doing that Michelle was in Toronto for her job and was able to take in the CN Tower (17) (18) - one perk to having to travel, I suppose. More on that later.
In May Isabelle started her first job (19). What was fun was that I had the camera with me - how often does a person get a picture of their 1st day of work? Her school required volunteer work for a credit so she signed up to volunteer for Ahimsa Haven, a local animal rescue. Part of their deal is showcasing cats at Petsmart and since she was not old enough I had to accompany her to take care of them. It turned out to be a good experience with her and it continues to this day.
After Bailey's training was completed it was time to put it into practice and it worked out with Bailey and Grammie's dog Trudy (20) getting along very nicely (after a shaky first 1/2 hour). Also in May Michelle got to go up to Maine with the kids and that was really nice because she had missed the last time. Plus, Michelle was able to go to NYC with just Sam to check out the Natural History Museum, Times Square, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and Grand Central Station. They had a great time taking it all in.
As part of the band Isabelle got to see the Boston Pops perform and she did her first Memorial Day parade as a full-fledged, uniform-wearing Gardner High School Band player (21) (22) (23).
Since we didn't know how many hours Isabelle needed for her volunteer work she took on working at Heywood Hospital for the summer. We have come to find out that she now has more than enough so I'm not certain Heywood is in the cards for next year as all they had her doing was scanning paperwork.
In June an opportunity arose for Michelle and I to dip our toes into Canadian soil again. She was going to Montreal for work so I drove up there (with a pitstop at the Ben & Jerry's (24) factory) and met her sans kids. We took in a craft fair just outside the hotel and then we zipped up to Quebec City. Before getting to the hotel we hiked near some powerful falls at Canyon Ste-Anne (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) and stopped at Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica (32) (33). Both were very impressive. Michelle's phone rang in the Basilica near some folks who were praying. She was mortified and I was laughing. Of all places for that to happen. Yikes. Anyway, I had a selfish reason for going there as it was the area where my Poulin ancestors settled in the 1600's and, in fact, they had contributed the land on which the Basilica rests. There are plaques (34) (35). We drove to a small hotel inside the Old Quebec City walls and we were upgraded to a great room (36) because we were so awesome, I guess. The following day was for seeing the sites (37) (38) (39) (40) (41) (42) so we did some exploring of the old city and by that I generally mean shopping. It was beautiful. Did I mention there were no kids? We saw the Notre Dame cathedral and did some dress-up at a local shop ....Michelle did (43), that is, and we spent probably too much money along the way. We left the next day but took a "short" stop at St-Joseph-de-Beauce to look for Poulin gravestones. It was a long ride home from Quebec City but the trip was a fantastic way for us to celebrate our 21st anniversary. Our fractured-French continued to be unnecessary and was, I think, even discouraged as we clumsily tried to string two words together.
Some time in August we decided to get a cat from Ahimsa Haven and we scooped up Zuko (44) (45). We knew that Bailey's new training would be put to the test but he passed with flying colors. He and the cat were on the road to becoming best friends. Also in August we got a visit from the Crawfords (46) while they were on their way to (from?) Maine. We hadn't seen them since we went with them to Concord & Salem in 2010. Also in August, Michelle was able to get in a trip to the Netherlands (47) (48) (49) (50) (51) (52) (53) because of work so she took the opportunity to see the Van Gogh Museum, the beautiful scenery, and a real Windmill. Sam managed to go to college for a week to a Lego Car Building class but I think he expected more engineering and less play. Ah well, guess we'll try something different next summer.
Since Madison's parents lived on the Cape and they had booked a cruise, they asked us to house sit for the week so we ended up having a nice vacation with Madison. We trekked up to Provincetown because Michelle and I had not been there in over 25 years. The girls did shopping and sitting on the beach (54) - Sam and I ran (yeh, right) up the Pilgrim Monument for the spectacular view (55). We, of course, went to the beach. Sam and I carved a squid and after much discussion about how it looked too much like a tentacled willy (56) we looked up squids on our phones and made some crucial adjustments afterwards. Another day the girls (57) went to the mall while Sam and I went to the Heritage Museum & Gardens in Sandwich to see concept cars (58) (59) and the gardens (60) and we got to ride the carousel (61) by ourselves-probably a once in a lifetime thing. Oh, and we bought a new car there on a rainy day (we needed it anyway since the Subaru was making horrendous grinding noises).
Throughout the summer Isabelle and I helped get Ahimsa Haven's new facility in Templeton open (62) by cleaning up, painting, etc. and the whole family helped open it up in September-we even made the Gardner News. Definitely a good summer for sure.
Also in September we had a successful tag sale (stuffed animals on sale were lined up for miles) and Sam started 7th grade and once again Isabelle did band camp before entering 10th grade. And that is when all the trouble started. Our poor Bailey had to have an operation on his back leg because he seemed to hurt himself at the Cape. He was recovering very well and Zuko was even taking care of him (63). Unfortunately, Bailey got sick and we couldn't figure out what was wrong with him so he is now playing at the rainbow bridge with his buddies Murphy and Boomer. It was very tough on us, especially since this was right before Halloween. Plus, Isabelle started getting a bunch of migraines early in September and missed a lot of school so her first quarter was a bust. She is on medication which appears to be helping and she is back on track at school. She was upset about the report card but we told her it was not the end of the world. On the plus side Isabelle and I took the opportunity to swing by the site of the 1st rocket launch (64) in Auburn MA after her visit to the migraine clinic.
On Halloween Sam did us proud by going as a Starfleet officer, using my old costume from maybe 15 years ago ( I certainly can't wear it as my gut has expanded like Shatner's). And he carried a phaser rifle I constructed for him with my new jigsaw (the family got it for me for my birthday-it is good to finally have real power tools).
Prior to Bailey's leg injury we had talked about getting a kitten to annoy Zuko but with all of the trouble we waited. In November we decided it was time so we adopted Suki (65) (66) (67) from Ahimsa Haven. She is affectionate and is getting along quite well with Zuko. She is still a kitten and it is fun to watch her pester Zuko but he has taken to her well and occasionally puts her in a head lock and grooms her. He likes to do that to Sam, too. That is one odd cat.
In other pet news we lost our other gerbil Midnight (68) and the rabbit Zelda had some sort of aneurism after jumping out of my arms. Rest in peace little dudettes. On the positive side Hazel (69), Oreo (70), and Ruby (71) are still going strong and we are very probably getting a new dog (currently named Handsome Hudson) in January (72)!
What else? Sam is off his asthma medication which is fantastic. We had to replace a drain pipe a few months ago. That was definitely no fun. We refinanced the mortgage. In November we had a new flue liner put in and a chimney rebuilt. Exciting. At least the house won't burn down anytime soon. Michelle keeps knitting and even made some doggie sweaters for the shelter dogs. I revamped my website and printed out 6 years of photos to put into albums. Sam learned to make his own scrambled eggs and Isabelle just did her Christmas Concert. That's about it. See ya next year!
Ed, Michelle, Isabelle, & Sam Poulin
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Ahimsa Haven has been a big part of our lives this year so I thought I'd show some of the animals we have helped recently. It is clearly a worthwhile cause. I never ask for anything from anybody so I hope that you'll take the time to check out the site and maybe make a donation (click on the picture above). It is all volunteer and the animals get all of their shots and are spayed or neutered before going to their new homes. Isabelle and I have seen so many come and go. At first, it was a bit sad because we would get to know them but now we are excited to see who is gone when we do our shift on Saturday mornings. The whole family has taken a Sunday afternoon shift at the new shelter in Templeton and there has been much success there, as well.