Rocky Mountain Snyder Family XMAS | 10

Dear Family and Friends:

This year I decided to take up smoking. My doctor said I wasn’t getting enough tar. *

Carli and I bonded this year, watching the show, “The Office.” That show is just so funny. But sadly, the more I watch it, the more I think I’m just like Michael Scott.

One time Sam and I watched all three “Lord of the Rings” – the four-hour per movie versions – but that was just an appetizer compared to what we did this year. Sam and I started watching “Lost” on Netflix with season one, show one, in the summer. Right now, as of the writing of this letter, we are in the middle of the sixth and final season. Don’t give away the ending.

The family loves Saturday Night Live, especially the Digital Shorts. Any of the kids can recite/sing all words in character of anything Andy Sandberg or Kristen Wiig has performed. Plus, family home videos were a big hit. Videos of when the kids were little. In one video a three-year-old Gina yelled in my ear and I said, “Gina, you just yelled in my ear.” And she said, “Sorry Daddy.” Well, you can’t tell how hilarious that is, just by reading it, but “Sorry Daddy” became the punch line for 2010 for the Snyder Family in spite of Gina’s protests.

Carli and I went to Austin, Texas, for her first Grand Prix meet, where she got to swim with the Olympians. I thought that I was going to have fun in Austin, but instead of having fun, I drove the team’s van from the hotel to the pool and then from the pool to the hotel. Gina went on her road trip swim meet to Montrose, Colo. Both Gina and Carli were named ‘Most Improved’ for their workout groups on the Falfins.

Sam’s teacher was not “fired” even though a small group of her students dug a grave in the playground and then tried to bury a troublemaker at recess. Yes, you read that correctly. They were not playing. They were trying to bury a fellow student alive. Why, you might ask. Well, the troublemaker had just finished serving a suspension from school after bringing some sort of chemical to school and throwing it on somebody. So you could say the impromptu burial might have been justified. But, as a parent, this incident raised all sorts of questions, like when did kids start bringing spades to recess? Who’s supervising recess? What ever happened to playing kickball? And more. All of this occurring in Briargate, in the cute little elementary school two blocks from our house that all three kids have attended.

I worked bingo as part of my Children’s Chorale volunteer requirements. I felt like I was surrounded by the cast of “Shaun of the Dead,” which, if you’re not familiar is a great movie about zombies.

Rose nearly killed the dogs on Dec. 23. Kirby and Rocky helped themselves to the pitas, a traditional Italian holiday treat with raisins. We googled “dogs, raisins” … turns out a small handful can kill a small doggie. The emergency room vet gave the dogs some morphine and got them to barf. Turns out innocent, little Kirby ate most of the raisins.

I’m constantly calling the kids names like ‘moron’ and ‘meathead.’ In my defense, it’s usually in the form of a suggestion, like ‘Don’t be a moron.’ Or I’ll call someone a meathead, but then I’ll quickly say, “I mean, honeyhead.” But I got to thinking about it and I thought maybe that wasn’t the best parenting technique. So I called up my dad and asked him if he ever called me any names.

He took a moment and said, “Well, I used to call you … son.”

I’m a bad dad.


I coached Sam’s YMCA basketball team early in the year. When we arrived at our first practice, there was a young man already on the court, dribbling and shooting his autographed Harlem Globetrotters ball. He was throwing up shots from beyond the three-point line. When he found out I was the coach, he wanted two things: to show me his cool ball and to ask me a question.

“Are we going to scrimmage, Coach?”

The boy was Douglas. He is autistic and he is awesome.

That first practice I spelled out my coaching philosophy with one simple phrase: “Get the ball.”

Only six kids showed up for that first practice out of 10. I kind of hoped that of the remaining four we would find a stud.

Second practice comes and I meet the brothers Jared and John. Jared is a stud. He’s ripped and hustles. I nickname John, JonnyBoy; he has Down’s Syndrome. He is instantly one of my favorite kids ever and I know that this season isn’t going to be boring.

Brian is good-looking with beautiful hair; I instantly resent him.

Mitchell arrives with this final group of four; he too is autistic. This is his first basketball experience and a bounce pass is challenging for him. He had to make more of an effort to stay focused than Douglas.

The team also featured best buddies Adam and Gabriel. Adam was our best shooter; Gabriel was a speedy defender and he didn’t listen to one thing I had to say the entire season.

Early on I introduced running ‘killers’ at the end of practice. When you watch developmental basketball, it’s more running than basketball, so I thought we should get in shape, running from the baseline to the foul line and back; halfcourt and back; to the next foul line and back; and then end line to end line … touching your fingers on the line.

I liked yelling, “On the line, GO!”

At the end of that second practice, we named our team. The kids suggested the Terminators; I countered with the Fighting Termites, “Because you’re a bunch of annoying pests … on defense.”

They liked that and the name stuck.

After a couple practices, we launch into the season of games. Before the first game, I wasn’t sure what I had. I pull the other coach and the ref together to let them know that I had three special needs kids on the team. I didn’t want anyone making fun of them or whatever.

The other coach was great. He knew all three of the kids because he works in the school district. It wasn’t going to be problem.

Then he pulls me aside to commiserate.

He says, “You think you’ve got it bad, do you have any girls on your team?”

I was shocked.

He just compared being a girl with having a neurological or chromosomal condition. That might have been the funniest moment of the year for me.

We won that first game (no doubt due to the number of girls on the other team’s roster). The Y doesn’t officially keep score, but somebody’s brother or sister would keep track every game. We won every game.

I upped the number of killers each week, so by the end of the season, we were up to eight. A big coaching victory would be getting JonnyBoy to run any of them or to get Gabriel to run in a straight line.

I had them shoot free throws to get out of running all of them, just like Coach Hib Hill from my high school.

Sometimes I would give JonnyBoy a piggyback ride for the last killer. I don’t remember Hib Hill doing that.

I really enjoyed working with the kids. I could see why Rose likes coaching the little guys on the Falfin Swim Team. It was a family affair with Sam on the team, Rose assisting and Gina and Carli coming to the games.


Gina volunteered to play Hamlet in a scene for her seventh grade drama class. She showed me the script with her lines highlighted. Of the four pages of dialogue 90 percent of it was Hamlet/Gina’s.

The cafeteria/drama theatre, or the cafetorium as it’s called, gets packed quickly for these student showcases. Gina’s was one of last groups to go. You know how these student things go. Everyone is anxious to remember their lines, hit their spots. If, by rare chance they actually remember their lines, they spout them too quickly and quietly and move out of the limelight as soon as possible.

Gina’s group comes on stage and Gina looks mad. “Oh no, Gina’s upset about something,” but she delivers her lines beautifully.

Then Gina busts out in a big smile as one of the other students comes on stage. “Oh, that must be one of Gina’s friends, Gina seems super happy.”

Then it hit me.

Gina is acting!

Oh. My. God!

She wasn’t mad; Hamlet was mad. She’s not smiling; Hamlet’s smiling. Gina is a hundred miles ahead of her classmates, she is acting like there’s no tomorrow.

The biggest and best moment of the year for Gina was following that performance when her drama teacher compared Gina favorably to Carli.

After years of hearing about Miss Perfect, Gina was singled out for her confident, outgoing nature.  She picked the biggest part and killed it.

But Gina was not done surprising me this year. She was accepted into the prestigious Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale. And, of course, by prestigious I mean, expensive.

After a bunch of practices, she didn’t seem to be getting any better. Then one night Gina came into our bedroom and sang a song for an upcoming talent contest. For the first time, Gina sang a song as an alto; she stood at the foot of our bed and sang “Anything I’m Not” by Lenka and I was blown away.

Gina also swims on the Falfins. At her most recent meet, we were hoping that she’d qualify for the Silver State Meet. She was close in a number of events, including the 50-yard freestyle.

Rose, in an impetuous moment, offered our 12-year-old a $50 dollar bill if she went a certain time in the 50-yard freestyle. The bribe didn’t work.

The next day, I went to the meet. I tried a new tactic. Gina was leading off a relay and had another shot at the 50y free silver state cut.

I suggested that Gina picture our Miniature Schnauzer, Kirby, on a little island that was slowly sinking into the ocean.

“Gina, you can stop the island from sinking, if you swim fast enough.”

If not, the island, surrounded by sharks, would continue to sink and the aforementioned sharks would devour the beloved puppy. My ‘coaching advice’ did not work.

Gina got her Silver State cut just not in the 50y freestyle. No for that event, she just qualified for several years of intensive psychological therapy and for that both Rose and I are sorry.

Ani DiFranco

I took Carli to her second concert. And I have to tell you that the Ani DiFranco concert was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, intimate in the small Armstrong Hall at Colorado College. I had no idea that there were that many lesbians in Colorado Springs.

Carli made it to the High School State Championship as a freshman. I was so proud of her. I went to the meet in Fort Collins and invited Karen Allen, who was the Olympic beat writer at USA Today when I was an intern at the University of Florida. Karen lives up there now. I show up five minutes late for everything, not a good habit at a swim meet; I ended up standing near the diving well far away from the starting blocks, but easy for Karen to find me. In the 100y fly, only 40 swimmers qualified; Carli was one of four ninth graders.

I was a proud papa before she even jumped into the water.

Carli earned HS All-America honors, swimming the butterfly leg on the 200y medley relay that finished third at state!

Carli’s name is plastered on three different high school ‘pool record’ boards: once at Rampart and Pueblo and twice at Cheyenne Mountain.

Carli had her first college campus visit. The University of Denver put on a great show. Other schools have their work cut out for them.


“When was the last time you two took a weekend off just the two of you?” my hairstylist asked.

(Yes, I have a hairstylist … the hairs might not be many, but they do occasionally need to be cut … takes about five minutes.)

I thought about it for a minute then I realized that Rose and I have never taken a weekend off since the kids … 15 years.

Rose and I went to Tucson for the 125th Homecoming Anniversary at Rose’s alma mater, the University of Arizona. We stayed at a nice resort with a spa. Enjoyed the cactus. Got to watch the Arizona Wildcats win a football game. The highlight had to be the Women’s Sports Legacy breakfast, lots of pioneering women and a reminder of a time when an opportunity to participate was restricted for girls.

Rose and I called a restaurant to make reservations and they said that they were booked until 9 p.m. We were rebels; we went downtown without reservations and got seated at 7:30 p.m.

Yes, it was one of those rules-be-damned “Lost Weekends” you hear about on the TV.

Rose and her mom at a Clarksburg, West Virginia, restaurant.

Rose also had a fun trip to Beany’s cabin in Arizona for her sister’s 50th birthday. And met a number of cousins at an Italian Festival in her mom’s hometown in West Virginia.

Rose’s mom, Mary, took Rose and her siblings on a walking tour of Clarksburg and showed them the apartment where she was born. It sat above the Coca-Cola bottling company.

Road Trip

Sam and Dad at Mount Rushmore.

Sam and I took a cross-country road trip. I forgot to pack the computer to watch movies on and yet we still enjoyed virtually every minute of it.

We visited Grandpa in Minnesota for Father’s Day, went canoeing on Lake Independence. On the way home we visited 1880 Town, where all of the buildings were from the late 19th Century. Sam loved that place. We actually stopped at Wall Drug, which is, in my estimation, the lame-est tourist attraction since Four Corners. But Sam loved it, lots of guns and knives. We finally got to Mount Rushmore and took in every nook and cranny of this national monument. Always awesome. We saw Crazy Horse. That is going to be very, very cool when completed.

Just like my trip with the girls a few years back, we left Mount Rushmore and headed for Hot Springs to spend the night. We had to stop the car to let some buffalo cross the road and then some deer. After dinner in Hot Springs, while walking to the car, I looked up and saw the sky covered in what I called “death clouds.” Imagine the most ominous clouds you’ve ever seen … these were worse. I thought, “We’re dead.” Sam, who doesn’t like tornados, wasn’t pleased. We get to the little hotel and the lone hotel employee emerged from a room behind the registration desk, where she was washing linens, oblivious to the weather and not sure what to do in case of a tornado warning. We went to the room and turned the TV up loud and watched … (Editor’s Note: I couldn’t remember what we watched, so I asked Sam and he replied with no hesitation whatsoever, “Deadliest Warrior and Harry Potter.”)

Sam can’t wait for the next road trip. And I can’t wait either.

Bike Ride

I road my bike a lot in 2010, culminating with riding my first century – 100 miles – at the Tour de Cure, a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. I had some issues at the end of that ride. I was dehydrated and had shortness of breath. My doctor tells me now that on top of my diabetes I have exercise-induced asthma. So I got an inhaler for Christmas. In 2011, I’ll be riding in the Southern Colorado Tour de Cure on May 14 and hope to do an Olympic-distance triathlon.

One question … how long does a mid-life crisis usually last?

Merry Christmas.

Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | Kirby | Rocky

*Joke courtesy of Steve Martin; Let’s Get Small, Warner Brothers Records, 1977. |
© Rocky Mountain Snyder Family 2010

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