Dear Friends and Family,

I am living every father’s dream…to DANCE…on stage…in front of tons of people…with lots of lights.  YES!!!  Emmaline and Molly are in their dance school’s performance of The Nutcracker.  Emily signed us up to be in it with them as “party parents”.  I was reluctant at first with the pink tights and leotard but later found out it isn’t that kind of show!  Darn, I guess I’ll only get to live out half my dream and dance!  The life of a stage performer is sometimes dull.  First we wait, then my magical performance, we wait more, then go back on stage for the adoration of the masses, and then wait more in the bowels of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for it all to begin again.  It is all worth it when I take the stage, the spotlight focuses on me, the crowd roars, the flowers land at my feet, and I motion to the crowd to please sit while mouthing the words “too much…too much”.  OK, OK, not exactly.  I have to admit that when I got pulled into this I wished both my daughters just played soccer like everyone else.  After starting with a “not so good” attitude I wound up enjoying it very much.  It is absolutely amazing to see how everything comes together from backstage in a performance that includes around 150 girls of all ages.

Anyway I figured for the second day’s two performances I’d work on my letter, while I await the eager crowd’s acceptance!  What’s better, I’m around Christmas music, presents are dancing, gumdrops are dancing.  No better time to get going than when gumdrops start dancing?!?!?!

We have had a busy year keeping all the little ones where they are supposed to be.  There is always an opportunity to serve in the Dean taxi brigade, if you are bored.  I can’t say that I care much for Hillary Clinton but the title of her book It Takes A Village sounds pretty true to me.  In the Spring when all four kids were at the height of activity it would sometimes take ourselves and 3 or 4 other adults to make our Saturday “happen.”

We started our year off in New Mexico and Colorado Springs with Emily’s family.  We went sledding at their cabin in New Mexico.  We took the cog railroad toward the top of Pikes Peak and then spend New Year’s night at The Broadmoor Hotel.  Cameron, Emily’s brother, deemed it “Colorado Springs Style 2005” in his best Girls Gone Wild voice.  On our last day Emily and I left the little ones and took Preston and Emmaline snow skiing for the first time.  Everyone did great except for me.  I fell and somehow my skis wound up underneath me.  So here I am speeding (full speed) down the hill on my back.  I shot into the woods and into the deep unpacked snow and luckily missed all the large pine trees that would have likely sent me to my maker.  It took me a full 7 minutes to get unstuck, out, and back on the trail.  Note to self, “remember why you don’t ski before going again.”

We went back west again in the summer with Mimi and Pops, Emily’s parents.  We visited several of the same places again and went to Denver, Colorado Springs, and New Mexico.  This time swimming was involved which is more my speed.  Being a project manager and an eternal planner I had our trip broken down into hourly increments with activities and adventures planned throughout.  We didn’t stay on schedule but explored all over the place.  Pops, Emily, Preston, and I went whitewater rafting.  We explored Denver with the kids into the night, went on mountain picnics, drove on roads from interstate to gravel, and hiked in and around volcanoes, gorges, and waterfalls. 

The rest of our year was busy with all kinds of things.  Mimi and Pops moved so we visited Cape San Blas for possibly the last time in May and Vero Beach for probably the first of many times in September.  My Dad turned 60 this year so I was mean to him.  Some of my old church / high school friends came from out of town for a miniature reunion.  We didn’t hit a Nextel Cup race this year but Duck River Speedway was the replacement.  It is a little different from big time Cup racing.  We again tested the roller coasters at Holiday World and they work fine.  We braved the downtown fireworks for the first time with the kids on the 4th.  We had a “traditional” Thanksgiving at Hogdaddy’s biker bar in Old Shawneetown, Illinois.  Emily’s Dad, Hogdaddy, and Preston worked the fryer to add to Theresa’s spread.  Stuff like that lumped in with the kid’s normal routine leaves enough time for me to hold down a job and for Emily to do laundry.

In the spring I snapped, and not just once!!!  Our house has a full unfinished basement.  One side has a two car garage; it has room for all the various wheeled devices that the kids employ in their daily exercise routines.  The other half of the basement is a laundry area, storage, and a workshop area.  A full basement that is as big as our main level.  Simple enough!

Emily is an organizer and I am a hater of clutter.  I can take an amazing amount of stuff and cram it in a closet and close the door.  BAM…end of clutter (at least that you can see).  Emily on the other hand will spend an eternity organizing the stuff to be in neat rows and columns.  When I get ready in the morning I sometimes have to go to 3 different rooms in the house to find my clothes.  It is always somewhere and organized in cute little piles.

Snap #1 started in my mind somewhere deep inside a dark, evil place.  One day I walked through the house and I couldn’t take it anymore.  I honestly believe every surface in our house had a neat little stack of laundry on it, or a stack of stuff that needed transporting somewhere, or something.  I’ve affectionately developed a name for these little “to do stacks”…crap piles.  I can’t stand them.  About once a month after one has grown in a previously uncluttered area I pull an all hands on deck drill to clear it.  I wage war on crap piles.  This day I stood in the middle of the dining room looking at the dining room table that I don’t remember ever eating on.  As I looked around the house I realized the whole thing had turned into a crap pile.  One of Emily’s favorite shows to watch involves a team of people that come in and help people get their houses cleaned out and organized.  I started talking like the little British guy on that show and said I wasn’t going to stop until the table had been cleared.

“Let’s put this stuff away!”  “What do you mean there isn’t room?”  “Well where is it supposed to go?”  “Let me see the closet.”  “Wow, that is full!”  “I can’t afford a bigger house.”  “We can’t need all this stuff, what about this…can we get rid of this?”

We spent the next hour taking baby bumper pads that Preston used, beach towels from 1996, baby burp clothes, and an amazing number of other things out of that closet.  In the end we went from a completely cram packed (but organized) closet to 5 of the 6 shelves being completely empty.  Magically when we started to clear the dining room table we didn’t need ¾ of that stuff either.  To this day I eat on my dining room table each night and that closet remains over ½ empty.

I felt like I had cured cancer.  If this one closet has this much potential what else was out there waiting to be conquered.  Snap #1 had yielded results.  We had figured out that our house wasn’t as small as we believed but that we had seemingly never in our entire 10 year marriage gotten rid of a single thing.  Each item carried a similar story of sentimental value or of a future undefined use.  I was ruthless!  Once I had done this for a while Emily lit me up on some of my own crap piles.  I found myself giving similar excuses.  We both have some kind of disease or something, but we seem to have beaten it.

Emily had always talked about having a garage sale but it had never happened.  The front half of the 2 car garage side of the basement was the garage sale pile.  It went from floor to ceiling and was the width of the two cars.  As we cleaned out things they were added to the garage sale pile.  The pile grew and grew.  It grew towards the cars to the point that they were bumping the giant pile when you pulled them into the garage.  At this point it started to grow into my workshop.  I mentioned the need to have that garage sale and each time the weather wasn’t right, the kids had something to do, the stars hadn’t aligned properly or something. 

Snap #2 happened when I realized that I could no longer navigate the basement except for a single path through the laundry room.  The giant pile had grown into my workshop and threatened our very existence.  The only place left for it to go was up the steps.  It would soon take hold of our living area.  I felt like I was in the movie “The Blob”.  I lost it and declared to an awestruck family that the garage sale was this weekend.  There I had done it, I’ll get some signs, put an ad in the paper, and all this mess will be gone.  Snap #2 had gone with only a warning that it won’t be that easy.  “Ha…worry wort…you’ll see!!!  Show me the money from all this stuff walking out my door.  I can’t wait.  You’ll see.”  I knew in my heart that Emily had found it in her to put all this stuff in our basement but that she never had any intention of letting anyone walk out with it.  Snap #2 had cured that!

One snap left, Snap #3.  It would be the worst of all.  No good intentions what-so-ever.  Snap #3 was pure unfettered anger, fueled by the giant crap pile in our basement.  Since the day was approaching and the end was in sight Emily was unpacking things and getting them displayed on tables for the garage sale.  We had roped off the garage, pulled the cars out and she had displayed everything in every nook and cranny of the garage.  Once it was full there was still ¾ of the pile remaining.  I looked around and could not believe the vast amount of stuff.  It spanned our entire marriage from first baby to modern day.  Why had we kept all this?  I don’t understand?  Where was all the rest of that giant pile going to go?  When I look back on my behavior at 2 in the morning prior to the garage sale I am embarrassed.  Emily doesn’t understand what caused the level of rage that exploded out of me that night.  But I know what it was; I was at war with the biggest crap pile of all time.  It was beating us and I knew it.  I was in disbelief that “stuff” had beaten us.  How could this have happened?  “No, you go ahead Emily.  Just leave me behind with some ammo.  I’ll hold it off as long as I can.  Save yourself!!!”  We finally gave up and went to bed.  I had decided that we would literally just sell our way out of it.  The next day we did just that.  By lunch the next day we had gotten to the bottom of the pile.  Our driveway was lined with stuff and our basement was still pretty full but we at least had it all out!  By the end of the day we whittled it down to a single garage bay full of stuff.  The next weekend we took 4 pickup truck loads of stuff to another yard sale and whittled it down further.  In the end we wound up with one pickup truck load of items going to Goodwill.  Snap #3 had ended in 10+ years of crap gone!!!  I was not proud of my behavior and have jointly vowed that we can never allow that to happen to us again.  Emily and I attend weekly meetings.  “My name is Joey and I am a crap pile fighter!”

Emily and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this year.  We almost didn’t make it after I found a floor model air compressor at Sears that I “needed.”  I came home with it and Preston ratted me out before I could “explain” the purchase the way I felt was necessary.  I knew I had to make up for it and wouldn’t be able to just go out to dinner to celebrate our first decade together (kidding).  We took a few days for ourselves and went to Rugby, TN and then on to the Biltmore Estate.  We stayed at the Gray Gables bed and breakfast in Rugby and discussed how it would be nice to be in the bed and breakfast business.  Then we realized that neither of us can cook, we don’t really enjoy housecleaning, and that we are basically running one now with all our kids.  We needed a more pampered life so we moved in to the Biltmore Inn for a few days.  Emily let me know on several occasions that the Biltmore is a house she could live in.  Imagine my luck; I married a lady who only “needs” the largest home in America to be happy.  Now I know how we’ve made it 10 years.  For now we will live happily ever after in Biltless Estate on Wayland Drive…get it…neither did Emily?!?!?

Preston is 10 in 5th grade and has moved on to JT Moore Middle School.  He has the older women’s eye headed in his direction.  When we talk with him about it his reaction is usually “why me?”  I let him know that it is the curse of the Dean man and he simply has to learn to live with it.  He played football again this season and he toughed out a pretty bad season.  The team had a hard time finding success and the coaches had little good to say.  We learned some valuable lessons and finished up in the first round of the playoffs in a very exciting game against a really good team.  He also started playing lacrosse during the summer and really enjoyed it.  He is a big dude and he scored many goals just by running over whoever was in his way.  He and I went tent camping for the first time with his church group.  We set the tent up and quickly noticed the folding chair we brought with us was as big as our tent.  We figured out our tent was a kiddie play tent that he got when he was 3 years old.  Needless to say this experience allowed us to get closer…that’s funny…not then but now.  He got braces this year along with his mother so we have two metal mouths in our house.  He is also taking after his Uncle Cameron and ran in the County Music Kid’s Marathon and loves to go to the skate park for some rollerblading.  Life isn’t all fun and games and I have gladly welcomed my new lawn boy to the family.

Emmaline is 7 and in 2nd grade at Percy Priest Elementary.  She is described by her teacher as the most well rounded child she has ever taught.  I let her know that it is the curse of being Dean and she simply has to learn to live with it.  She gets straight A’s and has learned the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.  Emmaline has always been by the book and recently got very upset when a boy called her “baby”.  When the teacher was investigating why the young man was calling her a baby he said, “No, not baby…baby!”  Emmaline had no clue.  I’m sure she will figure it out soon enough.  She is a dance machine and is in her dance studio’s company.  She is in several different dance classes with “her girls.”  When I pick her up it is like a Hollywood diva convention.  In her recital she even got to dance with the big girl’s company group on her hip hop dance.  She jumped out on stage and was hip hopping with the high school girls.  In The Nutcracker she was a party girl and also danced in the Chinese dance.

Molly is 5 and started kindergarten at Percy Priest Elementary this year.  She is learning to read and loves going to school.  She is a little social animal and hugs every person that crosses her path.  People always talk about how beautiful she is particularly her eyes.  I let her know that it is the curse of being Dean and she simply has to learn to live with it.  Molly loves cleaning and organizing and when cleanup time comes around she is ring leader.  She is following in Emmaline’s footsteps and is also in the dance studio’s company group.  She was center stage in her recital and did great.  She was also in The Nutcracker as a gumdrop; she never stopped smiling the entire time she was on stage.  Unlike Emmaline she is also sports minded and played soccer in the spring for the first time.  She picked the sport up quickly and was better than most of the boys on her team.  For her birthday she wanted a hamster and we added Gracie to our family.  Gracie was a very lively little dwarf hamster.  Gracie was only with us for a short time.  When touched she would frequently draw blood.  Human flesh only touched the little vermin once in her short life that I am aware of.  I feel like her aversion to the very love that makes a pet worth keeping is what led to her untimely death.  A life without love is no life at all.  We will miss you Gracie.

Max is about to turn 4 and goes to preschool at Brook Hollow Baptist Church 3 days a week.  Max is a man of few words.  He has finally decided to start talking, but only on his own terms and when he is in the mood.  If you want to talk and he doesn’t you will get nothing.  A friend of mine was over and said “you know your youngest boy just came by dressed like a girl”.  I let Max know that it is the curse of being Dean and he simply has to learn to live with it.  I didn’t even flinch because underneath the toughest little boy I’ve ever come across lies a gentle man in touch with his feminine side.  Emmaline recently started calling him a Tom Girl…I let her know the proper term was Sissy Boy.  He tries to keep up with the girls in their dances but generally just runs and throws himself on the ground or slides.  He played soccer for the first time as well and he was awesome at going to get the ball after it went out of bounds and after other teams scored goals.  He was also really good at running around frantically for absolutely no reason.  He didn’t really play much soccer.  He can play video games and work on the computer like a mad man.  Max loves Playstation video games and computer games.  He can barely talk but already types Nick into to get to his games.  He can do things on the Playstation that neither Preston nor I can do.  We just watch in amazement.  He also learned to ride his 2 wheel bike before both girls.  They quickly got jealous and learned later the same day…nothing like peer pressure.

As Emily and I were celebrating our 10 year anniversary this year my thoughts were around all that we’ve been through over the past 10 years.  I also think about all the things that lie ahead of us.  Mainly, I thought about how much Emily and I owe to so many of you. 

Our childhoods where filled with so many family members who loved us and spent time with us.  Some people have hardly any family and we have so much we have a hard time seeing you all.  We looked up to you all to teach us the way things are supposed to be.  We are blessed by our families and the love and support you have shown us for so long. 

As we got older our friends were also with us to support us through good times and bad.  We cannot count the times that we have leaned on our friends for support, advice, and just plain old help.  Over the years your actions have shown us who our real friends are.  We are blessed by our friends and all the times that have brought us closer together.

I can safely say that without each of you in our lives the way that you have been over the past 10+ years we would probably not be together today.  Nothing against Emily and me but with everything we’ve done in the past 10 years we just couldn’t have made it without each of you in our lives.  Knowing what choices to make when, what to do when things don’t work out the way we planned, having all our children and all that goes along with that, moving here and there.  All that was easier because of the impact you’ve had on our lives.  We love you all and our little family thanks you!!! 

Our lives are simple compared to people dealing with life changing hurricanes, illness, or a loved one being sent to war.  We always remember this and are thankful for all we have.  We wish you happiness in the coming year and hope you have a wonderful Christmas season!

God Bless,

Joey, Emily, Preston, Emmaline, Molly, Max and S’more

P.S. We have some late breaking news that is reminiscent from last year’s letter.  Last year I talked about animals attacking us and wrecking cars.  A couple of days ago as I was taking the girls to school for Molly’s Christmas performance we were revisited by both.  We were driving along minding our own business and all of the sudden the windshield of my old van turned white from cracking into millions of pieces.  The man who was behind us stopped and said he had never seen anything like it.  He said the deer was about 20 feet high in the air.  Evidently the beast was not high enough to clear the van.  His day wound up being worse than ours.  He came down on our windshield and then lay convulsing in the ditch for 10 minutes before he hobbled into the woods.  When I explained all this to the wrecker driver I swore he was about to put a knife in his mouth and start tracking him through the woods…because “I’ll hunt anything.” 

I started off the Dean bad luck late last year when I crashed my van.  My Dad somehow managed to get a convertible BMW wedged underneath his big rig’s trailer.  In another trailer related accident my Mom was sideswiped by a truck pulling a trailer that merged onto the front of her car on the interstate.  Nothing can budge a car as large as her Buick so she was fine.  My sister stopped to allow a deer to pass her on the road.  The deer evidently had a death wish and took exception to her kindness.  He charged her car and “horned” (I guess deer don’t have keys) all the way down the side of her car as she sat still in the middle of the road.  In a more traditional accident Emily was rear ended in the new van she got after I rear ended someone else. 

Every person who can drive in my immediate family was involved in some incident.  I feel like the circle of wrecks is now closed as each incident has both a ying and a yang.  Trailer wedge traded for a trailer swipe, rear ending traded for being rear ended, and deer attack traded for some good old deer annihilation.  Hopefully I started it and ended it all and we are off the hook for some time to come.  I still might take up deer hunting to try to earn back some of my insurance deductible…the hard way!!!

Published by deanorolls

Well, if I told you that you wouldn't need to go to my would you?!?!

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