Rocky Mountain Snyder Family XMAS | 12

The kids on Christmas Day, wearing sweatshirts from Gluek's, a German beer hall in Minneapolis. I call this photo, "Back When I Had Disposable Income."

Dear Family and Friends:

Merry Christmas.

I hope you are well. I’m okay now, but last week I was in rough shape.

Most commonly overheard phrase in the Snyder household in 2012:
“Don’t use the debit card until the 15th.”

I smashed my head into the ground crashing on my bike in April and got a concussion.

Rose, apparently getting a kick out of my inability to remember things, asked me back then, ‘Do you know who the Broncos quarterback is?’ I said Tim Tebow. Rose said, no, we traded him to the Jets.


Rose tells me that Peyton Manning is the Broncos quarterback.

Me: “WHAT? That makes no sense. Manning never played for the Jets. You’re crazy.”

I went for a run a several weeks after the accident. I ran a slow, windy six miles on the Santa Fe Trail. About halfway through I looked down and noticed that I was wearing my lawn-cuttin’ shoes and thought, “I might have a little bit more recovering to do.”

My second ride after my crash in April, I rode the 25-mile course at the Southern Colorado Tour de Cure in June. This is me at the halfway point with the damage of the 2002 Hayman Fire in the background.

I still like riding my bike and this year I came up with a great new post-ride stretch because when you get older you have to take care of your body, so give this a try.

Find a good floor space with plenty of room, lay down on your back, close your eyes and breathe deeply … now hold this position for anywhere from five minutes to two hours … continue breathing deeply. Works your entire body.

I continued my work with the American Diabetes Association. In fact, I went to a number of events to promote the Southern Colorado Tour de Cure, including a major cycling event in Castle Rock, over 9,000 riders. I manned the ADA booth for over two hours, wearing one of those shrink-wrapped cycling jerseys talking with dozens of the super fit. On that afternoon in Castle Rock I set a new personal record for sucking in my gut. 

This year I did some more running. But sometimes when you are out in the middle of the wild, you find yourself in one of those kill-or-be-killed scenarios. You can learn a lot about yourself when the intimidating face of nature unleashed confronts you.

I was almost done with my run when I happen upon a very large and barking dog at the top of a hill. I’m not kidding … that dog had no leash. I stopped. I didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I had recently read an article about surviving a bear encounter, so as I was about lay on the ground in the fetal position to play dead, a nearby 10-year-old boy on a bike said, “He won’t hurt you.”

The boy was right; the dog let me pass.

Me and Rose on a hike in the Waldo Canyon.

Sometimes I like to burn a few calories at lunchtime. I sent Rose a note one afternoon, telling her that I went for a long walk in the hot sun at lunch.

“I could wring out my underwear right now and fill up a bucket,” I wrote. “But instead of doing that, I’m just sitting atop a sopping mess in my pants. My balls feel like they are spending the afternoon at WaterWorld.”

Rose replied, “How fun for you … and your balls.”

Rose can be funny like that. Here’s my favorite Rose joke this year: She asked if Frozone was going to be in The Avengers. (She was kidding.)

This year I did something that I think is the equivalent of a marathon or riding a century. I cleared out all of the rocks from the backyard flowerbed. No joke, I moved several ton o’ rock. At about the same time I read this monster-sized biography about Vincent Van Gogh – two endurance projects at once. I get over 600 pages into the book and I’m thinking, “Can you just cut off your ear already?”

Many of you may not be aware, but I am a big-time reader. In fact, each year I make it a goal to read each and every National Book Foundation award finalists in all categories … usually I end up reading about zero of them.

My first tuxedo, bought at Goodwill for $14.

Rose and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in 2012. I thought we’d be celebrating the occasion at Buffalo Wild Wings. We like taking the family there on certain Sunday evenings, when kids beers are half off. But no, we didn’t go to the wings place for our anniversary, we took a trip to Portland (more on that later).

For our other date in 2012, we went to the fancy schmancy Black and White Ball at the Fine Arts Center. But first we went clothes shopping at our local Goodwill. They had one tuxedo in the store. The coat was my size. The pants were my size. I went to the Ball in my very own tuxedo; it cost $14.

For an active family, we watch a lot of TV. New favorite shows to watch over and over. Portlandia and How I Met Your Mother. We also watch our fair share of reality shows.

Mocking talent show contestants is a family hobby, especially during the always-emotional ‘backstory’ segments. Here’s a sample from The Voice

Me: And my mom has leukemia.
Carli: And I suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Sam: And my dog is preggers.

Sam went to his first Broncos game this year, pre-season versus the 49ers (the first-time Broncos handled the first-team Niners very easily). We got to sit in the KKTV suite loaded with food and beverage and great views.

Sam’s foray into football continued with a seventh grade middle school season. Sam played on the offensive line for a team that fielded its share of first-time players. In the final game of the season, Sam’s Mountain Ridge Grizzlies were losing. Their opponents featured a student-athlete with size and physical abilities beyond his years. League rules require that teams play all of the kids. For example, Anthony, Sam’s teammate, often stood on the sidelines, when he was obviously needed on the D-line. But this end-of-the-year opponent played the wunderkid on every down, offense, defense and special teams. On offense he was a wide receiver, on defense he roamed the field like a free safety, lining up on either side poised for the sack. On special teams, he was the kicker.

This opponent was up several touchdowns, when their big kid did an onside kick. We covered the ball, and then the big kid just crushed our guy. It was upsetting.

This sets the scene for Sam’s first plays on defense. With only a couple minutes in the final game of the year, Sam gets the call to play nose guard. On his second play, Sam slaps the center to the ground with his right hand and bum rushes the quarterback who hands off. Sam meets the runner in the backfield, wraps him up, and slams him to the ground.

Sam, who had just watched Ray Lewis: A Football Life on the NFL Network, was geeked up. He and his teammates were all bouncing up and down. Anthony grabs Sam’s shoulder pad and says, “That was the most awesome-est tackle I ever seen.”

But the pure joy on the field was short lived as the Mountain Ridge coach, apparently not watching what was happening on the field, replaced Sam with another kid who hadn’t as yet played on defense and on the next play the opponent’s big kid busted through the middle of the line for a 60-yard touchdown run.

After football Sam tried wrestling. He got to wrestle Anthony every day for six weeks. At a citywide tournament, Sam pinned his first-ever opponent in 10 seconds. He won three of four matches and took third in his weight class. Later in a dual meet, Sam pinned a kid who outweighed him by 90 pounds.

Sam and Anthony also anchor the seventh grade choir. Sam got his first ‘spoken word’ solo during the Christmas Concert, nailing the line, “You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich,” from You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. I’m just as proud of him for singing in choir or playing in band as I am for playing sports.

Just last night, Sam busted out a magnifying glass to show me the one wisp of a hair on his upper lip, which he is calling, “his mustache.”

Carli and Gina answered questions from kids around the world about Santa as NORAD Santa Trackers.

Gina made the auditioned choir as a freshman. Gina kicks some ass at many things, but singing is her specialty. She sang for first four lines of “All That Jazz” from Chicago at a choir concert for her first solo. The woman behind me said, “Wow.” The next day the choir teacher asked the Singsations, the school’s top choir, what their favorite moment was from the concert, Carli said Gina’s solo and everybody else chimed in about Gina.

The choir teacher said a couple nice things about Gina’s singing abilities this year: 1. Gina could be the best singer in the state; 2. Gina could be a famous opera singer someday.

Gina took a journalism class and wrote a story about my Olympic travels and me. She interviewed a few people, wrote the story and designed a magazine layout. She got a 100, but decided not to take the class next semester. She’s taking a guided study hall instead of another elective. How could I be mad? Taking journalism is like studying Latin, what’s the point?

Rose and Carli traveled somewhere for some swim meet at some point this summer. And with Sam spending more time at his various friends’ homes, sleeping over three or four times a week, Gina and I got to spend some rare, just-the-two-of-us, quality time together. That was one of my favorites weeks of the year.

Gina likes painting her fingernails. Often. Many different swirly colors, shapes and patterns.

Rose and Carli at a toy shop.

Carli interviewed Grandpa Chuck about his experiences in Vietnam a couple years ago, but it was this year that we found out that the project now resides in the National Library of Congress. Carli submitted copies of Grandpa Chuck’s photos from his time in the war and a more recent visit to Vietnam, the transcript of the interview and a video of the interview.

Carli, captain of her high school swim team, has a job teaching little kids to swim on Saturday morning.

Carli is in the middle of deciding where to go to college. She visited several schools and her favorite was Lewis and Clark in Portland. Carli, Rose and I flew to the Pacific Northwest to visit that school as well as Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. In Portland, we stayed at a cool downtown boutique hotel within walking distance of the Portland Art Museum, Powell’s Bookstore and Voodoo Donuts.

And yes, it did rain. But I think the rain is what makes Portland so beautiful. It makes everything so green and lush and it keeps intolerant jerks from moving there.

Rose and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and the weekend couldn’t have been more perfect. Even when things weren’t going our way, they went our way. One night we wanted to have dinner at one of the famous Portland food trailers. It was raining. Rose kept bringing up great points, like “It’s raining.” “I don’t want to walk around in the rain.” “And I’m not going to want to stand in the rain and eat my dinner.” All very valid points.

Clam chowder topped with clams.

Most of the trailers weren’t open. We didn’t know what to do. Then we decided to cross the road … we look down the road and see a massive rainbow filling the space between the buildings at the horizon. It was amazing. We walked towards Powell’s and found a historic and cozy seafood restaurant, second oldest restaurant in Oregon, and had a memorable meal.

Lewis and Clark is a great school, but it is probably best known for its campus, which is consistently rated as one of the most beautiful in America. It’s like they placed a school within a botanical garden. There is a 645-acre state park connected to the campus. So we all liked the school. Rose, of course, knows the assistant swim coach; Carli would swim there.

But we also all loved Portland. The downtown is so beautiful. Trees everywhere. The Portland Art Museum had an exhibition from the British Museum of Roman and Greek antiquities. Powell’s is renowned for its size as a bookstore, but that’s not what impressed me; they had every book from all of my favorite authors. I just haven’t seen that kind of selection anywhere else. But, bottom line, I’d rather go to Tattered Cover in Denver, they all have a much warmer atmosphere.

We loved the donuts from Voodoo donuts.

Voodoo Donuts was featured on the Travel Channel a while back. We all saw it featured and couldn’t wait to try their fun combinations. Carli liked Oh Captain, My Captain, which is a normal donut with vanilla frosting with Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries on top. I loved the Portland Crème, which is the city’s signature donut, a Bavarian crème-filled, chocolate-covered donut, but don’t be confused; I’ve had a few chocolate-covered, crème-filled donuts … this was like no other. Best ever.

We went there twice. On the second visit, I had the Dirty Old Bastard, which has chocolate frosting, smashed Oreo cookies with peanut butter drizzle. Fo shizzle. Yes, I am a diabetic; I’m just not very good at it. Rose had the Voodoo Donut, which is shaped like a Voodoo doll, covered in chocolate frosting. Somebody has stabbed the doll with a pretzel stick, which causes the raspberry filling to ooze out.

You can see why we are moving to Portland.

On our way out of Portland, driving to Walla Walla, we stopped at the spectacular Multnomah Falls. We found a leaf that was bigger than my head. We had fun there until – you guessed it – the rains came. Rose was swearing a lot as we hoofed it back to the car.

Kirby helping me cut apples on Thanksgiving. We're making cherry apple crisp. A Snyder Family tradition, we all help prepare the Thanksgiving meal and Sam helped Mom make the lasagna for Christmas Eve.

One day I came home and the dogs weren’t anywhere to be found. I checked the backyard. No dogs. The gate to the backyard was open. The dogs had escaped. How long have they been on the run? What will happen to them, I wondered worrying. I ran to the front yard to yell, “Kirby,” because he’s my favorite. But I don’t have to yell. They are both standing in the driveway. Kirby and Rocky are panting hard and smiling … what exactly did they do and where did they go when the gate was left open? It must have awesome because they came home to tell me about it.

Rose and the girls volunteered to help a very worthy cause, the Starlight Children’s Foundation, which provides Christmas presents for very sick kids who find themselves in the hospital during the Holidays.

And finally, Carli and Gina answered questions from kids around the world as Santa Trackers for NORAD on Christmas Eve.

I’m proud of those girls and the boy. Each of them has something unique and special to offer the world and I’m glad to be their dad.

Merry Christmas.
Charlie | Rose | Carli | Gina | Sam | Kirby | Rocky | | © 
Snyder Family Holiday Letter 2012


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