Why I love the high school mountain bike racing season

Ed being served pancakes by a butler

This is my impression of the trials I endure as a coach for the La Crosse Area Mountain Bike Team.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association high school mountain bike racing season just came to an end. I was one of a dozen coaches for the La Crosse Area team, and the season was very good to me. I was forced to ride my bike consistently, and leave the house occasionally to travel to races and camp in a tent.

Recently, I was at Paul and Jenny Fisher’s house, eating chili and apple crisp, when the subject of conversation turned to mountain biking. Jenny asked me, “Eddie, how do they get you to camp out, when you hate camping?”

In perfect harmony, Nikole and I said, “It’s not really camping.”

I went on, “When we arrive at the race course, I ride around the course a couple times with some of the racers. While I’m riding, someone else sets up the tent. Then a bunch of parents cook a meal.”

She said, “Oh yeah, cooking is the hardest part of camping.”

I agreed, “Yeah. Then we sit around a camp fire and talk smart. Then I sleep in my down sleeping bag. In the morning, a bunch of parents make a hot breakfast. I eat, then ride around the course a couple more times with some of the racers warming up. Then I cheer for the kids in the races. Then I eat a lunch that someone else makes.”

Mr. Fisher said, “Wait! You mean you basically eat, sleep and ride your bike?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Mr. Hale, you’re a genius.”

Yes. Yes I am.

But I acknowledge that it is the work of all the other coaches and parents that makes my race weekends so wonderfully happy. I am truly thankful for all that they do.

Noteworthy Peeps:

Josh Shively, our head coach and possibly the nicest man you will ever meet.

Mary Luebke, one of our food czars and taker of excellent photographs.

Dan Speckeen, a very happy coach who also organizes food, cooks a mean pancake, shows up early to claim campsites and likes coffee.

There are at least a dozen other coaches and spouses who work very hard to make the race weekends all they can be for Ed. I am thankful for all of them.

sunrise in the camp site

Morning dawns, and the world says, “Ed, what can I do for you today?” (Dan Speckeen, in the middle of the photo, is one of the food organizers, and the manager of my caffeine needs on race weekends.)

Camping in a farm field

This is a common race weekend campground — tents and campers gathered into “compounds” in an un-mowed farm field. The nearest plumbing is five miles away.

Ruthie racing and smiling

Honestly, this is what it is really all about… seeing Ruthie wearing her race face.

Edward racing

The Hale kid out on the race course.

Ruth standing with some of her racing friends

You should all get your daughters into mountain bike racing. The ladies have a lot of fun. They cheer for each other, even for those on other teams. Nobody sits on the bench. The cheering crowds are just as big for their races as for any of the others. It is a good sport.

The Hale Family 2016 Year In Review

Editor’s Note: In the past the Hale Christmas letter has leaned too far towards self-depricating humor. This letter is an effort to push the pendulum back toward the center.

Laying on the Awesome, Thick and Strong

One of my kids recently justified her lack of goals by saying, “But, Dad, you always say how we are mediocre in our Christmas letter.” So, I had to explain to that child that “mediocre” is a joke, and the “Awesome” runs deep in the Hale family.

In a former life, Mr. Hale was an intimidating cyclist. Mrs. Hale, in her youth, was a three-sport varsity athlete. Both were straight-A students. Are you feeling the seeds of awe?

The biggest family news is that the local Catholic prep school so desired the presence of the Hale Awesome Train that they offered each of the kids a full-ride scholarship. Now, the formerly pajama-clad home schoolers must rise at the unmerciful hour of 6:30am to prepare for the freezing trip to school. Twice a year Nikole and I are forced to sit through parent-teacher conferences to hear how polite, conscientious, and hard-working our kids are. We just hold up our hands and say, “You don’t have to tell us how awesome they are. It’s genetic.”

Edward by the Aquinas bus

Edward Luke wearing his “Most Awesome 8th-Grader” Medal

Swimming is still the dominant sport in our family, and our kids regularly dominate. When average kids are honing their Xbox skills, the Hale kids are honing their front crawls and flip turns. Helen and Claire both lettered on the high school swim team. Bethany recently qualified for the YMCA State Meet. They are all just getting stronger, more chiseled and… well… awesome. The only un-awesome part of swimming is the constant driving to three different flavors of practice. Sometime after Lydia graduates from high school, we plan to have our first supper together.

Helen

Helen with her birthday cake

The most beautiful 17-year-old in the mid-west. Now she is almost 18.

Helen (17) manages to be awesome on five or six hours of sleep every night. Helen does sports, helps with the school play, and is constantly working on an art project. She hangs out with the church youth group. Helen does well in every school subject, including the very un-artsy subject of math. It is not uncommon for her to be at the table working on an oil painting, and suddenly lean over and say to a sibling, “You gotta use the quadratic formula for that problem.” (What even is that?) I want her to become a professor of mathology, but she has this silly notion that she might go into art. This past summer Helen was a landscaper. She built stone walls. She moved tons of earth with shovel and barrow. She got tan. If Helen could, she would spend all her time painting, drawing and reading books. Helen is my favorite child, because she enjoys going to the coffee shop with me and drinking chai tea. (She drinks the tea. I drink manly coffee.)

Claire

Claire in Festival Foods uniform

Claire getting ready to spread the awesome over Festival Foods. She won’t put the 64-ounce can of beef on top of your bread.

Claire is awesome and thinks all of you who start your paragraphs with something like, “Claire (15)” are lame. So, I will not tell you how old Claire is. Just know that she is somewhere between Helen (17) and Edward (13). She cannot yet drive a car. She is a couple years away from voting. Claire spreads the awesome pretty evenly over her life. She was at the top of the high school swim team. She is number 1 or 2 on the YMCA swim team. Claire enjoys rising before the sun. She showers, eats breakfast, gets beautiful and spends the hour from 6:30-7:30am tapping her foot and saying, “Can we leave for school now?” Though she claims to dislike it, Claire is thriving at high school. She gets excellent grades (except in that stupid class about biology. But who cares about that?). On every third Saturday, Claire works as a bagger at Festival Foods. If Claire were free, she would spend her time reading books, and drawing perfect illustrations of superstars and ballerinas in the margins of her biology notebook.

Edward

Nikole and Edward

This photo was chosen because Claire said Edward looks cute in it. Yes, let the record state that Claire thinks her brother is cute.

Edward (13) is awesome because this year he raced mountain bikes. I need say nothing more. But I will. Edward joined the all-city mountain bike team, training and racing on the ratty, old, used mountain bike his father bought for him. He so distinguished himself that the coach placed him on a loaner Trek Excalibur 6 Hardtail 29er. On the new bike, he quickly rocketed up to the same position he occupied before the new bike… but, man, did he ever look good. Edward made the podium in three of the four mountain bike races and helped the team to place fourth in the state. Edward is awesome in school and gets good grades, but just to keep it real, he gets a C in religion class. If Edward were a free man, he would read books and build Lego creations all day. He hopes to become an engineer and get a job at Lego.

Ruthie

Ruth with her egg drop box.

Having dominated the egg drop competition at school, Ruthie poses with her technology. (That’s right. Three drops from three stories. No sweat.)

Ruthie (10) is awesome because she likes to hang out with her dad. She and I work on social studies homework together. She still likes me to read to her. Ruthie swims on the YMCA team like all the Hale kids. Ruthie began her volleyball career this year — and there are few things more awesome in athletic prowess and volleyball awareness than a fifth-grade volleyball team. (Well, maybe more than a few things.) My greatest hope for Ruthie’s awesomeness is her desire to be on the all-city mountain bike team next year. Before the snow ruined everything, she and I would regularly go on rides in Hixon Forest to train for next year. I can see us now, traveling to mountain bike races together… me consuming coffee and M&Ms in the driver’s seat and her reading out loud to me from the passenger seat. When Ruthie grows up she is going to be a lawyer, “…because they make a lot of money.”

Bethany

Bethany in a kayak

Explorer, Bethany Jane, leaving for a paddle around the lake.

Bethany (8) continues to be awesome in her complete selflessness. She is a sweet child and has so far resisted the Creep training she gets from her siblings. Bethany is responsible. She gets her homework done on time. She, like her sister Claire, enjoys arriving early for school, but unlike her big sister, she does it without the toe tapping and harassment. Bethany cannot spell. When she is not studying for a spelling test, Bethany is playing pretend games with her little sister (that usually involve being clad in swim suits while the wind chill outside is -30°).

Lydia

Bethany with a hen

Farmer girl, Lydia, holding one of her backyard hens.

Lydia (6) is a wildcard. She is very smart, but displays awesome stubbornness. She can read, but she would rather plant her feet, clamp her mouth shut and refuse. Lydia swims competitively, like her older siblings. She plays with her dog. She starts works of art, but seldom finishes them. If Lydia were free, she would play with her dog and move in with her friends across the alley.

The Parental Units

Nikole and Eddie at a lighthouse

Nikole and Eddie celebrated their 20th anniversary in Door County Wisconsin.

Nikole (young) is the same. She runs. She lifts. She rides those silly stationary bikes at the YMCA with the other creatures of the pre-dawn. She cooks for her army platoon. She attends a Bible study. She volunteers at her kids’ schools. She’s, like, awesome. She drives children around a lot. I seldom see her. This fall Nikole went to Uganda with several lady friends to teach women to sew on treadle sewing machines. She also taught the women about human trafficking, hygiene and female things that manly men like me just don’t want to know about.

I am awesome at school, where I teach children to draw with their hands and with computers. I teach them how to build web sites. And the state sends wheel barrows full of cash to my bank. My athletic awesomeness is waning. My only physical activity is walking a very worthless dog every morning. I am sure if I had a few more bicycles, I could find the time to ride them. But my backward-thinking wife believes that seven bikes and a tandem are enough. How could I possibly stay interested with only seven bikes? Not awesome. Because Western Technical College is not big enough to contain my awesomeness, I got a part time job at Duluth Trading Company. No, I am not designing their catalog. I am selling pants and underwear to tradesmen. It is a very fun job. The boss likes nothing better than to see me talking to some old guy about what he does for a living and the proper length of a belt. When I am not teaching or selling extra-extra-extra-large t-shirts, I like to draw. I draw doodles in my journal. And I draw involved illustrations with my classes at school. If I were a free man, I would ride bikes all day and draw dog portraits all night.

Jack the Dog

Jake the dog

Jack hanging at the lake and smelling like a wet dog.

Jack the dog is very consistent. He is very obedient, if you are holding a dog treat. He enjoys running with his mom. He also enjoys mountain biking with his big brother. He really enjoys sleeping.

My editor suggested I include one serious paragraph, and I said, “What do you mean? It’s all serious (except the part about full scholarships to the Catholic school).” So, seriously, we have had a pretty good year. Our little house is still standing. Everyone has at least one bicycle. We are all well fed. We hope your life is ten times more awesome than ours… as if that is even possible. And we hope you have a happy Christmas.

Helen’s High School Acting Debut

Drawing of Helen in a maid's outfit

The beautiful Helen Hale before she was famous

Last week, Helen’s High School put on their spring play — The Miracle Worker, the Story of Helen Keller. It was excellent. I cried through several Kleenexes.

Helen, my eldest daughter, was a wordless servant and manager of stage and props. The play would have been a total flop without her work. The part where my Helen swept up the food after the breakfast fight scene was very touching. She took the audience through the range of emotions. We laughed when she flinched at the mess. We cried when she missed a big piece of fake scrambled eggs.

Claire, my second daughter, was in charge of Helen Keller’s hair. It was a mystery how Claire could rebuild the actress’s hair after every episode of great struggle. Every time Helen Keller came back on stage, the audience would gasp and whisper, “Oh, look at those braids. How many hair dressers are behind that curtain?”

If you are on facebook, you can see a photo of Helen subtly controlling the play from behind the action here:

https://www.facebook.com/something-something

The Hale Family Christmas Letter 2015

Six Annoying Children, A Good Looking Man, and A Woman on the Edge

This summer, we drove to Colorado for a Hale family reunion. We picked up some old guy hitch-hiking just outside La Crosse, and he turned out to be my dad. He enjoyed a long, loud ride out west with his grandkids. After we got back home, we didn’t see him for a month.

The Hale family in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign

The Hales in Colorado, in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign.

Hale Family in front of Rocky Mountain National Park sign

There were a lot of Hales in Colorado this summer. And some Maedkes, Haases, Henrys and Wardens

Chicken Man

I realized a lifelong goal this summer, when I raised chickens from eggs. I told the kids the chickens would like us, if we were the first thing they saw after they hatched. They are grown now. They hate us…  and run when we approach.

Nikole holding a yellow chick

Nikole with one of my homegrown baby chicks before said chick understood he should hate humans.

Helen with several teen-aged chicks in her hands

Teen-aged chicks are not pretty. This was about the last time they thought we were okay.

The end of home school (for the big ones)

Home school was so lame, we decided to send our kids to a brick and mortar school. The kids were so distressed to leave home (except for sane Helen) that we feared they might have a cumulative nervous breakdown. But after three months at Aquinas Catholic Schools, they find they enjoy being socialized.

Four kids on the first day of school. Claire looks grumpy

Some members of the family were less than enthusiastic about going to school this year.

Lydia

Lydia (5) is cute. She mostly lays on the dog and sucks her thumb. She will play the piano, when forced. She is home schooled. This year, Lydia learned to swim – like really swim with her face in the water and turning her head to the side to breathe. She also learned to ride a bike, which you can do anywhere, unlike swimming which requires a pool.

Lydia laying on Jack the dog

This is the scene every day, at least once a day.

Bethany

Bethany dressed as a witch

My photo curator, Claire, promises this is the best photo of Bethany from 2015

Bethany (7) is cute. She mostly does crafts and lays on the dog. She likes Barbies. She is home schooled. Bethany enjoys crying on the piano bench, just like her older siblings did. Bethany likes swimming on the swim team, and looks forward to the competitive meets.

Ruthie

Ruthie holding pumpkins

Ruthie purchasing two Halloween pumpkins when most kids are satisfied with one.

Ruthie (9) is cute. She mostly likes to read books. It is all she does. She mostly reads when she should be doing something else like clearing the table. She is in 4th grade at Blessed Sacrament School where she has fooled the teachers into thinking she is a good kid. We regularly get reports of her angelic behavior, hard work and attention to detail. At home, the mask comes off. Her countenance glazes over when we give her a directive. I am convinced that when she is told to do anything, her soul leaves her body and reads on the couch. If I say, “Ruthie, clear the table.” She looks off into the distance, moves toward the table as if to obey, then turns and joins her soul on the couch.

Edward

Edward in a cowboy hat looking serious

I told Edward, “Look serious off into the distance.” Nailed it.

Edward (12) is not cute. He mostly dribbles basketballs — in the house — when we have decent folks over. He also does tricks on his scooter (outside) and rides his bike. He can only do homework between the hours of 10pm and midnight. Edward is in the 7th grade at Aquinas Middle School. He also has fooled his teachers into thinking he is a good kid, to the point that he was named student of the month in November. Edward was recruited onto the middle school basketball team by a coach with very poor judgment. He dominates the floor the way Michael Phelps might dominate Kobe Bryant. Yeah, he plays like his dad. Marble runs and Legos are still big with Edward. In nice weather, he rides with the middle school all-city mountain bike team. I would say he rides for the mountain bike team, but that would require his father to fill out forms, make deadlines and leave the house and drive places.

Claire

Claire at Riverside Park

One of the many trials Claire was forced to endure at her “real” school was the Homecoming dance.

Claire is 14 years old. She mostly swims. I mean she is really into it. She would miss parties, meals and family fun time, to go swim back and forth in a cold pool. She is sort of fast. She was the big holdout on going to an out-of-home school. Now she is the one rushing the others out the door to get to school on time. (For Claire, “on time” means 30 minutes early.) She enjoys gym class games that involve throwing balls at other kids’ heads. She nails the other kids in the head and looks innocent to avoid doing punitive push-ups. She shows no signs of success in high school. Claire gets good grades, but is only on the lame honor roll. She is not on the high honor roll, which vexes her greatly. She is on the all-academic team. Claire was also named Rookie of the Year on the high school swim team, and, she lettered in swimming. (We’re praying she adjusts to school.)

The Eldest Child

Helen at La Crosse Community Theater

The famous actress, Helen Hale, back when she was a nobody in the Missoula Children’s Theater.

Helen is 16 years old. She mostly does social. She acted in the Missoula Children’s Theater play this fall. She attended Christian camps this summer. She joined the Art Club and the Journalism Club at school. When she is not social, she is doing homework. She loves to read and draw. Helen is also a swimmer who won all her events at the prestigious Winona Invitational International Swimming Championships Preseason Opener. This summer, Helen water skied to please her mother. To the astonishment of everyone, she dropped a ski and slalom skied, just like her mom at 16.

The Matriarch

Nikole is beautiful. She mostly does family maintenance. She teaches elementary home school. She is constantly (no exaggeration) driving one of the kids somewhere. She somehow finds time to cook gourmet meals, because no one else in the family can cook, as they are too busy swimming and reading books. This summer, the formerly broken Nikole chose to tempt fate by water skiing again. Fate lost and Nikole won, returning to shore every time with nothing broken and all her joints in-place. Nikole just keeps getting fitter and fitter. She gets up early and goes to the Y to exercise with the other Catholic school parents. We all laugh at Nikole, because if any of us say, “I met a kid named such-n-such today.” She will say brightly, “Oh, I workout with his/her mom!” She works out with everyone’s mom. Nikole continues to be the glue that holds us all together.

Zellmanns, Rouxs and Hales by the Zellmann cabin

Some of the Zellmann clan at West MacDonald Lake. The lake that tried to break Nikole, but failed.

Pa

I am a pile of worthless. I mostly avoid work. Not when I go to work… then I work fairly steadily. But at all other times I try to stay far away from anything that might make me think, struggle or sweat. If not for dog walks and an occasional kid-taxi mission, I might never get out of bed. I help kids with homework. I would enjoy doing other things, like working-out with Catholic cyclists, but I am up too late doing my children’s homework. While my wife gets more chiseled, I get softer. My artist muscles are weakening too. I can barely draw a stick figure anymore.

The Dog

Jack running and looking crazy

I searched to find the most flattering photo of Jack.

Jack the dog is dopey. If Nikole is the glue that holds the family together, Jack is the Valium that holds my sanity together. Every morning when I want to roll over and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there to tell me how much he loves me and that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. He insists I take him on a long, morning walk. As we walk he goes on and on about how beautiful are the leaves, the trees and the sky. His favorite verse is “The heavens declare the glory of God.” He repeats it over and over again as we walk. Outside, I am forced to say positive things like “Good morning” to neighbors, and soon I may begin to think it is good. When I leave for work, my dog pretends to be sad. When I come home from work and am about to curl up on the floor and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there, telling me that his day was a black pit of despair without me there. He reminds me again, that I am the light that makes life worth living. He insists I take him on another long walk, during which he barks at children, little old ladies and anyone else who appears to be completely innocent. And when I go to bed, he tells me, “Dad, I love you, and I promise I will not go upstairs and sleep on one of the human kid’s beds.” He is a liar.

Jack the dog in the yard

Jack the dog looking fairly normal for a change.

As I proofread this, I thought, “All my friends are going to wonder why he hates everything and gets joy only from his dog.” Rest easy, my friends. My kids also do a fairly good “Welcome to the Morning” and “Welcome home from Work” greeting. And a kid who wants me to read a book can get me out of the fetal position. The Hope of Heaven also gives me great peace, as do Christmas movies, bicycles and my supermodel wife.

We hope you have a good year with kids less weird than ours, a house cleaner than ours, and a dog who sleeps in the dog-bed you bought him. Merry Christmas.

The Day We Overcame All… Sort of

The scene was the Winter Father – Son Retreat at Living Waters Bible Camp. I always dread the cold, but this year it was mild — too mild. The staff was carefully shoveling snow onto thin parts of the tubing hill to prevent dark patches from attracting the sun and melting the snow.

The torsion catapult

The torsion catapult made by the Hale kid.

The camp always prepares something for the kids to build with their dads. This year, everyone built a marshmallow catapult. There was much “practicing” and young men kept the air filled with white puffy projectiles.

Saturday night we had a shooting competition. The first task was to knock over a popcan pyramid from 15 feet away. We were given ten marshmallows for the task.

It was exciting because we were in the second wave, and no one had knocked down all ten cans. Edward missed with his first shot. His second shot knocked down six cans. His third shot knocked down three more cans. I looked him from across the room as he lined up his catapult, aiming at one tiny, lonely pop can 15 feet away. It was impossible.

The whole room watched.

He fired…

Silence…

Ting! He knocked over the can. The room erupted in whoops and applause. He got bonus points for having six marshmallows left over.

cans laying around

The former pop can pyramid.

Round 2

The object of the second round was to fling a marshmallow 25 feet into a garbage can – an impossible feat for lesser men. In the first wave, several kids managed to hit the side of the garbage can, but none were able to place one in the can.

In the second wave the mighty Hales stepped up to the table. We had five marshmallows. The first landed short. We propped up the front of the catapult. The second shot landed next to the can. We propped up the front of the catapult some more. Marshmallows three and four hit the side of the can. Our last shot… I took out the set pins and wound up the tension cords a full turn. The wood side of the catapult groaned under the pressure.

The referee said, “is everyone done?” I said, “We have one more shot.” All eyes in the room turned to Edward. I propped up the front of the catapult even more and thought, “Why did you choose that angle? You’re just guessing. What if you guessed wrong!?”

Edward lined up the shot. I said, “Pull the trigger slowly. Don’t snap it.” I held the catapult tight against the table. Edward shot his shot.

The catapult catapulting

The final shot…

The room held its collective breath…

Then, descending as if in slow motion, the marshmallow traced a line through the very center of the garbage can’s circular opening. Again the crowd erupted in deafening woops and hollers.

The marshmallow falling into the garbage can

The marshmallow the kid flung falls into the target.

Edward had done the impossible. He had knocked down the entire pop can pyramid and sunk a marshmallow in the distant garbage can. We were awesome!

We placed third overall.

Yeah, some jerks in the later rounds got better scores than us. But we were the groundbreakers. We were the first. We received the applause reserved for those who break barriers. For a moment in time we crawled out of our shells of mediocrity and shone like the great ones.

And we did with marshmallows.

A marshmallow

The unassuming marshmallow that won our temporary glory.

The Hale Family Year in Review

Out of a hundred family photos, this is the only one with most of us looking normal (except Lydia). Crazy Horse, South Dakota

Out of a hundred family photos, this is the only one with most of us looking normal (except Lydia). Crazy Horse, South Dakota

As I type this letter I am surrounded by the happy sounds of children making Christmas cookies. Holiday music mingles with the conversation, “You’re rolling it too thin!… Stop playing in the flour!… Don’t cut them in the middle of the dough! Cut them on the edge!”

Nothing is different with the Hales. The kids are all average home school students who regularly produce the minimum work required to pass classes. Nikole is near psychotic with the stress of teaching six children, making meals, keeping the house organized and caring for the man voted best looking cyclist in Wisconsin. I am still teaching, riding bikes everywhere and growing award winning facial hair.

Home school kids reading books

A bunch of home school kids pretending they can read.

Mostly we like to hang around the house and fine tune our mediocrity and sloth, but this summer we did something completely out of character. We went on a camping trip across the United States—a nearly impossible feat for this organizationally-challenged couple.

camping

Proof that the Hales left the house once this summer. We slept in that tent and it rained hard.

We camped for two days near Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. I tried the patience of my wife as I obeyed the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit all the way through Custer National Park. I was vindicated when several buffalo stood next to the road and posed for photos. We saw Mt. Rushmore in the rain. In addition to poor organizational skills, we have bad timing.

Buffalo by the side of the road

I say, “Okay guys. Hold it right there while I compose this shot.” Nikole says, “KEEP DRIVING, you moron! They could charge any time!”

The family in front of Rushmore

Look at the presidents weeping because the Hales came to Rushmore on a rainy day

We drove through Yellowstone. Late in the day, tired and still far from our next campground, we arrived at Old Faithful geyser. We learned that it would “go off” again in 90 minutes! My beautiful wife wanted to keep driving toward our far off destination for the night, but the rest of us said, “Um, no. You don’t give up on the nation’s most famous geyser because of a little 90-minute wait.” Maybe we should have kept going—the temperature started dropping and, just as the famous water cannon went off, a cold rain came to encourage us. We watched until lips turned blue, then we ran to the van.

The family in front of Old Faithful

Burr! Nikole says, “Okay, that’s enough. I’m heading to the van.”

We went to the ocean in Westport, Washington. My dear wife was about to realize her dream of seeing her children swimming in the ocean. She was disappointed that nobody was captured by the lure of 55° water, crashing waves and a cold wind blowing down the beach. Instead, she watched her kids shivering ankle deep in the water. Still, it was the ocean and it was beautiful.

Ruthie in the cold Pacific

Note the sweatshirt on Ruthie as she tries to endure the frozen waters of the Pacific Ocean. No swimming today.

The day after the ocean we went to the wedding. This is the wedding for which we crossed the United States… the culmination of a 1769-mile quest. We planned our 40-minute drive from our hotel, through Seattle, to the park where the wedding would take place. A drive that Google promised would take 40 minutes took 90. They have this thing in Seattle that we don’t have in La Crosse—traffic. In hindsight, it might have been wise to arrive a couple hours early for a wedding on the other side of the continent. But we didn’t do that because we are unencumbered by wisdom. We completely missed the ceremony. We made it in time for the family photo, the dinner (Hales never arrive late for dinner) and the dance. The wedding couple, my niece and some young man who is annoyingly good looking and successful, were very forgiving.

Family at the wedding

The wedding in Seattle. Even though our family is sort of separated, I assure you we were not Photoshopped in. This is the unedited photo.

On the trip back to Wisconsin the theme was “Hurry hurry, no, you don’t have time to stop and look at that!” We celebrated Father’s Day on the road. I was given a pretty Montana coffee mug, which my children endeavored to break as soon as we got home.

Other Stuff:

Nikole went to New Zealand with two sisters to visit the fourth sister who married an annoyingly good looking and talented young man from Cambridge. Nikole saw landscapes almost as beautiful as the bluffs around La Crosse, and sheep. She saw lots of sheep. While she was gone, the family almost imploded. Just before the government people came to arrest me for child neglect, my in-laws came to turn back the course of malnutrition. My wife brought me a long sleeved wool cycling jersey. That’s all that really matters.

Liz, Traci, Nikole and Stephanie in New Zealand

The Sisters Zellmann in New Zealand. Why would anyone want to go there? I’m sure the Hauraki Gulf is nice, but does it compare to Lake Onalaska?

We have no chickens. Our ladies were taking a lot of days off and were copping some attitude—Like, “No, don’t touch me! Get away from me! I hate you! Let’s have some food over here!” So, we sent them to a chicken retirement community run by a family friend, who, coincidentally, is known for making tasty chicken soup. I never made that connection before now. Hmm…

We went to my in-laws cabin twice this summer. Oh, the cabin conjures such glorious memories of swimming in the lake, sunrise paddles in the canoe, and broken hips. Yes, I was out on an peaceful bike ride in the country, when I got the call, “We think Nikole dislocated her hip waterskiing. Can you meet us at the hospital?” To which I replied, “Um, maybe after I’m done with my little bike tour. If I have time.” After a leisurely shower and a light lunch, I moseyed to the hospital. We learned that if you dislocate your hip in Perham, Minnesota, you either have to reset it yourself or go to a bigger hospital. I was all into the cost savings of the home remedy, but Nikole chose a helicopter ride to Fargo, North Dakota instead. Did I get a ride in the helicopter? No. I had to drive my in-laws crummy minivan. I didn’t even get to drive my huge, glorious family bus.

Nikole hip drawing

This is an image I drew just after Nikole’s dislocated hip experience. I wrote a blog post about it on our old family blog: http://eddiehale.com/family/news-updates/about-my-wifes-season-ending-waterski-injury

But seriously, we were very relieved to have her hip back in place and there was no permanent damage. I allowed her to take a few weeks off before returning to running and her quest to be the fittest woman in the Midwest.

The only other interesting occurrence was when God threw a dog into our lives. I was innocently looking through the Craigslist pet section when I was assaulted by the ad for a free yellow lab. And how was I to know the young man interviewing prospective families would choose a family suffering from overpopulation in a tiny house? It’s not my fault! I tried everything to avoid it, but now we have a dog. A big, dopey, blockhead dog who mostly lays around and eats an occasional shoe. I want to get rid of him, but the kids like him and Nikole thinks there is some value in a dog who lets four-year-old Lydia lay on top of him twenty times a day. So I guess he stays. And even though they all promised me I would not have to take care of him, I’m the one taking him on the two long walks every day. I enjoy kicking him when nobody is looking.

Lydia on the dog

I ain’t never seen a dog like that before. Best dog ever, I think.

Editor’s Note: Though my husband tries to forget it, we have children. I required him to mention them and he came up with the following:

15-year-old Helen is, humble and kind. She loves drawing, reading and she swims. On rare occasions she practices driving our car, but she is afraid to drive the huge, glorious family bus. She takes care of our pets.

Helen

The kind and gentle Helen dressed up for homeschool prom

13-year-old Claire is suspicious and mysterious. She loves swimming—like it pains her to miss a practice. She also loves reading and drawing realistic portraits of famous people. We try to get her to draw family members, but why would you want to draw a sister, when you can draw that girl from Harry Potter. Claire hates pets.

Drawing of Claire

A drawing of Claire by Claire. The poor child has no talent.

Claire at swim team

Swimming, swimming, it’s all about swimming. Don’t talk to me about running or cycling. I only swim.

11-year-old Edward is random and directionless. He loves swimming, mountain biking and, thankfully, entertaining younger siblings.

Edward Luke jumping in the lake

Edward, the directionless, chooses “down” into the lake.

Eight-year-old Ruthie is sweet and conniving. When she’s not stealing someone’s candy, she’s reading or playing the piano. She tries to draw like her older sisters.

Ruthie Nikole in hat

This photo shows the sweet side of Ruthie. But rest assured, she just pushed some kid in the lake or something.

Six-year-old Bethany is innocent and giving. Her only vice is she’s the one who, when the world is quiet and peaceful, will bash her head on the corner of a table and burst into tears. Other than that, she is the source of all things good and pure.

Bethany

Pure, sweet Bethany, oozing pure sweetness.

 

Four-year-old Lydia is an adorable possessor of as yet undetermined vices. She plays with dolls and whispers mysterious intrigues. She lays on the dog every few minutes.

Lydia

Lydia at the lake wearing googles she never takes in the lake. They are a fashion statement.

That is a fairly accurate recounting of the past year in the Hale house. Once again the Lord has blessed us with 12 months of relative peace and good health (hips aside). We hope you too have had a good year, and we pray that God will bless you with peace and good health in the coming year.

My New Career as a Costume Designer

The Hale family in costume

Six misguided youths ready to extort candy from their neighbors.

Why am I behind on my grading? Why am I not prepared for class? Why do I have bags under my eyes? Because it is almost Halloween and my kids need help with their costumes! Every time I pull out a folder full of assignments to grade, or I stretch and say, “Well, I guess it’s time for bed,” someone needs help with a costume.

How can I resist, when my 15-year-old says, “Dad, how do I paper mache these Maleficent horns?” or “How am I going to attach these horns to my head?”

“Honey, do you think I need to make a mask for Bethany’s bird costume?”

“Dad, could you draw the dark-mark on my forearm?”

No! I’m Mr. Arts Fartsy and I don’t have time for your creative projects now!

So let the record state: Those horns growing out of my eldest daughter’s head — those would be hanging down like puppy dog ears if not for the paper mache and duct tape engineering skills of the old man. And you can give me credit for the cute birdy mask on the six-year-old and the sharpie dark-mark tattoo on Bellatrix Lestrange.

Helen in Malleficent costume

Those be some nice horns lady.

And I made the duct tape corset on Mrs. Lestrange too! How many fathers can boast of making a duct tape corset complete with faux duct tape lacing? Not many, I think.

Claire in Malleficent costume

Bellatrix Lestrange models a handmade corset by designer Eduardo Roberto Hale

The "dark mark" on Claire's forearm

This is the forearm of my fine Christian daughter, displaying the “dark mark” tattoo, by which evil witches summon the Dark lord.

So, Halloween is over now. Can you all just let me get back to work?

Oh yeah, Mom made those bird wings and the intricate blouse on Bellatrix. So I guess she deservers some acknowledgement too. And I suppose I could give some credit to the kids for having the audacity to dream… of complicated costumes.

Early Season Ride to Donuts

I wanted to go on an epic road ride with one of my older kids, however, when I was snubbed, I invited my three youngest to go on an epic ride for donuts.

kids holding donuts

The little girls and I eating donuts at Riverside Park.

No cycling post would be complete without video footage of gnarly cycling antics performed by brave, young riders. The following video shows us riding on the La Crosse River Marsh Trail.