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Dear family and friends,
Much to our amazement, yet another year has somehow managed to prove more hectic than the previous one. Here, arranged roughly in age order, are highlights of Y2K as experienced by our blended family.
Erin, at age seven and in second grade, continues to perform exceptionally well in school. Unfortunately, he has not been identified for the gifted program, because the school district opted to violate state guidelines, averaging his performance and verbal test scores in determining eligibility. In Erin's case, as for his older brothers, the familial learning disability results in a marked disparity between subtest scores -- a surefire indicator of the gifted LD student. We had our due process hearing in early December. It remains to be seen how the hearing officer will interpret the law.
Curran is just about to turn eleven. He continues to struggle (mostly successfully) with mobility issues. This past year saw two successful muscle lengthening surgeries, which have given him much improved extension of his right arm, and an improved gait (he manages quite well with a walker and ankle braces). Another recent surgery has managed to eliminate his drooling (a common problem for CP kids). As this is a non-trivial social issue for pre-teens, we are delighted with the results. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is building a therapeutic swim-spa for Curran, but the work proceeds at an agonizing pace. So far, we have a beautiful hole in the ground where our back deck used to be. Curran's latest academic challenge has been to memorize the US presidents, in order (he has the first seven down). When someone in the family gets angry, Curran says he or she is "number seventeen" (Andrew Johnson, who scowls in all his portraits.)
At twelve, Devin is moody, volatile, and seriously into adolescence. His artistic talents continue to manifest themselves, and between ballet, piano and gymnastics lessons, Muriel is becoming his full-time chauffeur. He danced the title role in the Civic Ballet production of The Nutcracker this month (although, because of an overbooked flight and maintenance delays, Paul and Muriel spent the performance in the Pittsburgh airport, trying to get home.) Scholastically, Devin continues to struggle, fighting not only his own dyslexia, but also the rigidity of the school's staff. We are becoming resigned to the fact that Devin is no scholar, and are grateful that he has his artistic abilities to bolster his self esteem. His piano teacher is a dear, and makes him very happy.
In his first year of high school, fourteen year old Aubrey (usually the cooperative one) surprised us by being the first of our boys to be suspended from school. This for bringing in a printout of a spoof article off the Internet, on how to build your own nuclear device. In the post-Littleton climate, principals have no sense of humor whatever, and we strongly suspect Aubrey spent his three-day suspension surfing the 'net for still more contraband. As an educator, Paul has a bit of a problem with condoning censorship of any sort. Still, Aubrey has to learn to abide by the school's rules.
Bryn is now sixteen, and though eligible for a driver's license, is showing no interest in driving. In fact, he is actively resisting obtaining even his learner's permit. We suspect he is afraid we will make him actually go out and do something, instead of spending his discretionary time gaming on the internet. Then again, he's probably far safer at home reading than he would be on the road. We are not going to push for it!
All five of the boys are involved in scouting -- Bryn, Aubrey and Devin as Boy Scouts, Erin as a Cub Scout, and Curran as a Webelos, just about to cross over into the Boy Scout troop. Muriel served as leader of Curran's den this year. Curran had his first experience with scout camp last summer. Devin went along as his aide, and built both muscle and character pushing his brother's wheelchair.
Andrew went through graduation ceremonies at Santa Clara University in the summer of 1999, but didn't actually finish his last papers until this past summer. Now finally through school, he has been living in Berlin and supporting himself as a hip-hop producer and DJ. He finds Berlin exciting, dynamic, and challenging, and may stay there for another couple of years.
Erika is also in Berlin as this is being written, on an extended dance tour, but still calls San Francisco home. One of the studios which she and her fellow dancers had used was sold, as part of the gentrification of the Mission District. She participated in a huge street fair / dance-in to protest their loss of performance space, but Erika had the good sense to leave before the midnight arrest deadline. Still, we are as proud of her social conscience as we are of her choreography. She and Riley are still together -- must be about five years by now.
In addition to her full-time job as mom to her five boys, Muriel has found a new calling in computer building and networking. She has four computers in the game room interfaced for multi-player gaming, has two computers upstairs (plus the occasional laptop) similarly tied in to the home network, and recently helped Paul set up a three-computer local area network to tie his office, lab, and radio telescope together. She has been building up inexpensive computers for underprivileged families in this area, with parts bought on internet auction sites. Muriel continues as an advocate for special education, a member of the school district's Gifted Advisory Council, and as an occasional Special Ed Compliance Monitor for the PA Department of Education. She fields frequent calls from distressed parents of special needs kids.
Professional travel has dominated Paul's life even more this year than in the past. He has been on lecture tours to England, India, Sri Lanka, Germany, Brazil (Muriel got to go with him on that trip!), and all over Canada and the US during this past year. He still flies his Beechcraft on the shorter domestic trips, but lately travels mostly via US Airways. With his SETI League now grown to 1200 members in 60 countries (with over 100 small radio telescopes on the air), it is unlikely that Paul's travel schedule will soon abate. He has, however, found time to fulfill an old passion, spending much of the past summer restoring a 1951 MG-TD. Unfortunately, he had to spend more on a garage to house it in than he has on the car itself. Paul got to spend a week in Germany and Poland with Andrew in September, and a week with Erika in San Francisco earlier that same month. He has announced a new plan: from now on, he plans to spend one week a year one-on-one with each of his grown kids, wherever in the world they happen to be living. His travel costs will come out of their inheritance (it is a sign of their maturity that Erika and Andrew have both embraced this scheme.)
Our biggest frustration this past year has been our loss of medical insurance, with the local Chamber of Commerce opting to drop its group coverage. As The SETI League's sole employee, Paul is not eligible for a group policy. Thus, we struggle to meet the boys' medical needs with an inferior individual policy, while Muriel does noble battle with the insurance establishment.
The year ahead promises more travel, more educational adventures, more health challenges -- and, hopefully, more time spent with some of you! Happy holidays from:
Copyright © H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D.; Maintained by Microcomm
this page last updated 14 June 2007