Tag Archives: holidays

Holiday Letter 2020

Dear family and friends,

2020 has been quite a year, with lots of great adventures for the whole family:

  • We finally got to see Hamilton live on stage at the Kennedy Center;
  • The whole family went on a wonderful cruise through Scandinavia, Scotland, and Iceland;
  • We saw Cirque du Soleil when it came to the D.C. area;
  • Sasha competed in a number of Irish dance competitions around the region; and
  • Tracy resumed her WordCamp speaking presence with talks in Washington, D.C. and Lancaster, PA.

At least, we assume that’s what our counterparts did this year in the alternate universe where COVID-19 wasn’t a thing.

Instead, like you, we spent much of our year hunkered down and doing our best to stay healthy. Fortunately, none of us caught the virus, at least as far as we can tell.

And so while our Hamilton tickets went unused and we contented ourselves to watch the Broadway recording on Disney+, we were grateful that Mark’s job at the National Institutes of Health is going well (albeit from home, of course) and Tracy’s WordPress development business had a strong year. Lois couldn’t attend her knitting camps in Vermont, of course, but busied herself knitting and cooking at home.

The kids (Sam in 10th grade, Sasha in 7th) have been “going” to school via Zoom all year, and will probably continue to do so in the second semester. Sasha’s drama club still did its fall play: a radio drama version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; details on how to hear it will be posted on the family here when available. Sam found ways to connect with his friends through online gaming, and Sasha did virtual “movie nights” with her friends, and kept up her voice lessons and dancing remotely.

We hope you’re all doing well also in this crazy, topsy-turvy year. Here’s hoping that 2021 brings a more normal year and an end to this pandemic. Keep safe, stay healthy, and have a happy holiday season.

All the best,
The Rotton + Finifter Family

Happy Holidays from the Rottons

Greetings from the Rottons!

It’s been another year of change for the Rotton household.  In July, Sasha celebrated her first birthday. She’s now walking and babbling off in a language that only she understands. However, she can say things like “Mama,” “Dada,” and “hot dog” (which actually means Mickey Mouse, long story).

Sammy has gone from being a toddler to a full-fledged little kid.  He often demonstrates that he’s too smart for our own good: he can do simple arithmetic, reads voraciously, and has just started taking ice skating lessons with Mom.

Mark continues to work for the Discovery Channel, but Tracy has moved on to working for a federal government contractor.  She will be working with the Administration for Children and Families (part of HHS) to reengineer their website.

We’re also in the hunt for a new house, staying in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. All the best for a very merry Christmas and a bright and prosperous new year!

Mark, Tracy, Sammy & Sasha

We Got Egg Roll Tickets!

First, I’ll say that I’m thrilled we were able to secure tickets to this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll. But it was pure, dumb luck. It was clicking the right link at just the right time, after I’d even given up on getting them. I always thought it was a long shot, but we lucked out.

But of course, the problems were highly publicized, as noted in this Washington Post article.  In fact, my experiences were even quoted in the article.  One of my twittering buddies works for the Washington Post and asked me to email my thoughts on the process.  Here is the whole email:

Continue reading We Got Egg Roll Tickets!

My Christmas Toy Presents

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I had a great Christmas. Grandmommy and Uncle Boo were here. Santa Claus gave me lots of good toys because I was a very good boy this year. Here are some of the things he gave me:

  • A big dump truck
  • A little dump truck
  • A medium steam roller
  • A wooden train whistle
  • Diesel

My grandmommies gave me some cool toys too:

  • A doctor’s kit
  • A wooden clock toy
  • A Thomas floor puzzle

And Uncle Boo gave me a suitcase for my Thomas trains.

Sammy with his favorite Christmas present, the big dump truck from Santa Claus.
Sammy with his favorite Christmas present, the big dump truck from Santa Claus.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t normally do this, mostly because I loathe New Years (it’s just another reminder to me that I’m getting older etc. etc.), but I actually have TWO resolutions for this coming year.  Normally, I don’t have any because I believe that any change you want to make in your life shouldn’t have to wait until some arbitrary date on a calendar.  Nevertheless, things have gotten to the point in my life where I feel like I need to take action, now, on two fronts:

#1: Clean Up My House

This is a little more than just scrubbing the bathroom (and honestly, I don’t even do that; I have a housekeeper who does a much better job than I can do). I mean going through every nook, every cranny, and every pile of crap in my house and getting it all under control. Scanning in the kids’ art projects and sending the originals off to the grandmothers. Getting rid of the mementos I haven’t looked out (or taken out of boxes) in 4 years. Get my house into some sort of organized shape so that it doesn’t look like a FEMA zone all the time.

A one off on this theme is to redo the basement into a kids playroom so that we can get most of the toys out of the living room (where we’re always tripping on them) and into a dedicated space that the kids can call their own. This includes laying down new flooring since the cats have ruined the carpet there.

Another related part of this is to redo the floor in the kitchen. The original vinyl tiling that’s there has been peeling up since pretty much we bought the house and if we ever want to sell the place ourselves, that needs to be fixed up.

It’s a big project, bigger than it sounds, and maybe I should call it more “organize my life”, but if I can tackle the clutter that I live in, it will be that much of an improvement in my life.

#2: Don’t Buy Any More Books Until I’ve Read the Ones I Have

I should probably add to that “ask for books as gifts”. I have a pile of books I’d love to read, but I simply don’t have the time. Why compound the problem with more books? In fact, I haven’t read a single book I received as a gift for Christmas 2007! So I really don’t need any more. I don’t need to buy them, and I don’t need to ask for them. I need to read what I’ve got.

And the same goes for audiobooks. I recently bought one that I’ve only listened to the first 3 chapters of. I can’t listen to them in the car because no one else in my family wants to listen to them (and they’re almost always in the car with me, especially during the daily commute). I find it hard to listen at work because I can’t concentrate on the text and what I’m working on at the same time. So again, no time.

Basically, both of these resolutions come down to setting priorities. I’m going to find the time to clean my house and read my books. I have no idea how I’m going to accomplish this and still get any sleep, but I have 365 days to figure that out.

Christmas Lights

So, we go to the mall last night to pick up a few things, and don’t get home until 9:30. Then it’s the nightly fun of putting the kids to bed.  Hooray!

So what do I do afterwards? Why, finish putting Christmas lights on the cherry tree out front, of course!

I only did this last night because it was 60 bloody degrees outside, and a cold front was going to be moving in overnight. So it was either do it late at night in the drizzling rain, or some other night this week in the cold. I chose late but warm.

They’re on a timer, so hopefully they’ll be lit when we get home tonight. Sammy should like that. He gets really excited seeing any house with Christmas lights and will point out each and every one!

(I’ll try and get a better picture up this weekend.)

Sammy vs. Santa

I’ll spare the gory details of the entire weekend, only that we’re in the midst of holiday cheer.

However, I will relate the story of Sammy vs. Santa Claus. For weeks I’ve been telling Sammy that we need to go see Santa Claus so that he can tell him what he wants for Christmas. We even wrote a letter Sammy could give him detailing his preferences. And finally the day came, Sunday, when we were off to Lakeforest Mall with, I believe, one of the best Santa layouts in Suburban Maryland.

Sammy was reasonably good in the long line, as was Sasha who didn’t get fussy until we were approaching. A little nosh (yes, while standing in line) seemed to appease her. As for Sammy, I let him play with my iPhone for a little while, which backfired when it was our turn and I had to yank it out of his hand when he refused to give it back to me.

Sasha, who has been plagued with both separation anxiety and stranger anxiety lately, was a perfect angel. She gave Santa her biggest toothless smile and did everything she was supposed to do. Then there was Sammy.

I tried placing Sammy on Santa’s lap. His response was to start crying and then hop off. I gave Sammy the letter he had written, which he then threw at Santa and tried to run off.  Finally, after coaxing from the photographer and from me, he stood sort of next to Santa clutching a tiny basketball squeaky toy, and then finally sat on my knee as I kneeled down next to Santa.

At one point, he gave the photographer one of his “I’m in pain!” smiles. I tried to tell her that that was his smile and that she should get the shot off quickly, but I don’t think she quite believed me.

We managed to get off a few passable pictures which we got in prints and on a USB key (a cool l feature that I think is a smart way to go), we were done, much to Sammy’s relief.

Sasha doesnt look that happy, but Sammy cooperated for this picture.
Sasha doesn't look that happy, but Sammy cooperated for this picture.

2008 Christmas Letter

Greetings from the Rottons:
Mark, Tracy, Sammy & Sasha

It’s been an exciting year for the Rottons.
On July 11, at 2:43 in the morning, we
welcomed Alexandra Elaine Rotton into the
family.  She weighed in at 8 lb 8 oz and is a
healthy and active bundle of energy.  We
call her “Sasha” (it’s the Russian equivalent
of “Alex”).

Sammy is now a very precocious three year
old.  He recently switched to a new
preschool located in the same building in
which Tracy works.  With Sasha there too,
the whole family gets to be together every

Mark and Tracy are still working for Discovery Communications.  We invite everyone to enjoy the fine programming on the Discovery Channel’s family of networks. You can keep up with all our happenings on our newly relaunched blog: http://family.rotton.com/

You can also follow us on Twitter! Mark is @atarinut, Tracy is @taupecat and Sammy is @sammyrotton. (Sasha will get her account when she learns to talk. 🙂 )

To reach us in more traditional ways, call or email us: