If you’re reading this, you probably received our annual family Clarke Family Christmas card. We haven’t done one of these in the past, but with not everybody on Facebook (and life flying by quickly for all) we thought it might be nice to tell you a bit more about what we’ve been up to as a family.
Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2020!
Jason, Heidi, Henry & Annie
Henry entered 2019 as a 15-year-old who loves music, with two full original albums under his belt and another one in production. In addition to participating in show choir for his fifth straight year, he also performed an original song in the high school talent show and acted in the school’s entry into the state one act play competition. He turned 16 and entered his junior year of high school in August.
At the end of his sophomore year in June, Henry earned his learner’s permit and has been driving as much as possible as he works towards his driver’s license. If all goes well he’ll be a licensed driver in early 2020.
Henry works as a server in the dining commons of a local retirement community. While he missed some family road trips while working this summer, he appreciates the extra money and we’re happy to have him building some responsibility.
In November, we enjoyed seeing Henry and his classmates put on a hilarious, heartfelt performance of The Little Mermaid, with Henry playing Prince Eric, one of the lead roles.
Annie continues to love music, art, and being social. She started 7th grade this fall, her second year of middle school. She is currently active in Student Council, Band, and has just started her first ever year of cheering. She’s also appearing again in the middle school play after making her middle school theater debut last spring.
Annie continues to love her time spent in the local Girl Scouts chapter. Beyond cookie season, Annie’s troop is involved in a wide range of volunteer and learning opportunities. In March, our friends and troop leaders hosted us for some classic New England outdoor activities from ice fishing to cooking outside in the winter to making snow sculptures.
This year, the Girl Scouts have also sung to local veterans, spent a day at the Maine Maritime Academy, and went on many other adventures. In 2020, they’ll be doing additional fundraisers for a trip to New York City.
In August, we enjoyed our annual trip to way, way, way northern Maine to take Annie to summer sleep away science and math camp. Annie and her friend from school were roommates and took classes from 3D printing to Algebra to studying nature for drawing.
Show Choir 2019 🕺💃
For the past five years, the winter has meant show choir season in our family. Starting when Henry was in 6th grade (and including Annie starting last year), weeknights and weekends throughout winter are spent practicing with their respective school show choir groups, who perform a 15-minute song and dance medley based around a specific theme — think Pitch Perfect but with dancing.
Starting in mid-March, we travel to the regional and then three weeks later, the state competitions to watch our Orono school show choir groups vie against other schools for the state championship trophies.
In 2019, we were lucky enough to witness both kids winning the state championships for their respective schools- on Friday, Annie’s Orono Middle School Riot Sound won first in the middle school division, and then on Saturday Henry’s Orono High School team won for the Maine high school division. Both schools performed original stories based around the theme of growing up. You can watch a video of the high school’s moving set.
Heidi & Jason 💑
Spring is Heidi’s favorite season, as it starts a run of her birthday (April 5th), our anniversary (May 3rd) and then mother’s day a week later.
This year, we were grateful to be able to celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary at a family member’s beautiful cabin in the woods, where we explored some new parts of Maine. For Mother’s Day, we took an off-season trip to Bar Harbor with stepdad Peter and his dog Libby. Despite the chill it was a nice way to remember my Mom on the first mother’s day since her passing.
We spent the spring volunteering our time in support of a local construction bond to improve our schools. The improvements will include a long-overdue performing arts space and other major upgrades. I was lucky enough to be chosen to serve as a community representative on the planning committee, a fascinating process that gave me new respect for how much effort our local school board and town leadership put into making our community a better place. The bond vote passed in June, and we celebrated the hard work, long campaign, and the excitement of a new performing arts space with our neighbors. If construction goes according to plan, Annie will be able to perform in the new arts space during her high school career.
On June 11, we planted a rose bush in our yard to honor the anniversary of my Mom’s passing. We also enjoyed tending to our new rose bush and our garden throughout the summer. We didn’t harvest much – the cauliflower failed but the tomatoes and herbs were excellent.
Heidi returned to her 7th year in the guidance office of Orono High School, where she loves helping students with everything from college prep to growing pains and everything in between. Heidi also took on additional responsibilities last year as student council advisor, helping to plan school-wide activities including Homecoming, the semi-formal, and a school-wide talent show, a new tradition which drew significant attendance and participation last year (including Henry singing an original song with friends). She also worked with students on several volunteer projects and continues to do it all with a smile!
My work continues to be challenging and rewarding. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the US from Tulsa to Florida to New York to DC; the highlight was probably our company’s week-long annual retreat, held this year at Disney World in Orlando. I enjoyed co-hosting the company’s annual award ceremony and spending time with my remote team who are spread out across the US and Europe. While I don’t always get to do some sightseeing while traveling for work, I did take in a Red Sox game from the top of the Green Monster; I walked around the Smithsonian while waiting for a flight; I enjoyed visiting the beautiful city of Tulsa and nearby Oklahoma countryside with a co-worker and friend, and if you need any advice on getting around Boston or New York, let me know!
Family Activities 👨👩👧👦
We started off 2019 with our annual family cribbage tournament. Not surprisingly, Heidi won again, so it was on me to engrave her name in the back of the board.
One of our favorite activities in the summer is to see new parts of Maine on road trips. In late June, we traveled to the coast of Maine to see some iconic scenes and eat at a famous hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
As part of our trip up north to take Annie to camp, we also made a stop at Fort Kent, the northern terminal of US Route 1, which runs all the way from the northern tip of Maine to the tip of Key West in Florida. This was a special trip for my Dad and I, as we had visited the southern tip of Route 1 on a trip to visit family in Florida last December.
Proving that Maine really is a ‘small world’, we also ran into Heidi’s parents in this remote northern Maine town by total coincidence, more than 200 miles from home. It was a fun ending to a great trip!
Later in August, we left Maine to visit the beautiful lakes region in New Hampshire, where Heidi and I were lucky enough to add to our long list of concerts seeing Beck live. Date nights are hard to come by but still important!
The weekend before my company’s annual retreat, we spent the weekend as a family in Orlando, visiting Disney World and Universal Studios along with my stepdad Peter and his fiancé Vanessa. We celebrated my mom’s birthday at Disney, what we think was a fitting tribute since she loved her time there with us on our previous visits and always appreciated travel of any kind.
When we’re not spending time with our kids or at work, we enjoy doing projects around the house. This year we built a small woodshed, expanded our garden, and next year we hope to plant some blueberry bushes and expand our garden even further.
We also love spending time with our extended family of younger nieces and nephews, whether on road trips, weekend get togethers, or watching them so their parents can get out of the house.
In early October, we started a new tradition by inviting family over to make apple cider on our hand-turned press. It capped off a year of experimenting with more homemade foods and remedies – something we hope to continue into 2020. The cider was great and the hard cider was passable – though it might actually be vinegar at this point ;)
We celebrated my 41st birthday by carving pumpkins and I finished stacking wood in a woodshed that my Dad and I built.
The next week, we capped off a busy but fun November by hosting thanksgiving dinner at our house for nearly 20 in Heidi’s family.
2019 gave us much to be grateful for in work, experiences, and seeing the kids continue to grow and take on new challenges! We hope you and yours had an interesting and fun 2019 and we wish you the best in the new year!