In the words of two celebrities who shall remain immortal through the ages – “It is a time for change,” (Barack Obama) and “Once upon a time…” (Hans Christian Anderson) – the Phelps family introduces these statements as they choose to ruminate on just that topic – TIME.

Time is a tricky thing. You can’t hold it. You can’t feel it but some say it can be stored in a bottle. It has a past and a future. Everyone wants more of it. It seems you can try to buy and sell it. Some people value it, some people waste it. They don’t give medals for finding it, and if you steal a little bit of it, you may end up on the cover of a magazine instead of in jail.

Let’s look at Chr’s first; he works with people in four time zones. This may be what corrupts him because his view of time is very, very, odd. We understand that he works well on work deadlines so maybe it is just living in the Central Standard Time Zone that does him in. For instance, perhaps you’ve heard of Chr’s and his construction/destruction projects? Since these tend to start in the wee hours of the morning or in the middle of the night, he usually says they are short term projects to pacify the horrified masses who catch him with the hammer. However, those of us who live with him have discovered a wrinkle in his time. Whatever time frame he gives you, you need to double the number and increment the unit. So, if he tells you the basement bathroom will take three weeks, do the equation in Chr’s math with the wrinkled time and you should be able to pee again in 6 months. If you want to use the dishwasher and he says he needs 2 hours – then plan to use paper plates for at least 4 days.

Shannon uses a sped up form of time. There are people who’ve won trophies for their typing skills of 80 plus words a minute, and then there’s Shannon, who can talk so fast those typists can’t even keep up! Whenever she’s not talking, she’s sleeping, something she does at a fairly constant speed. If she could, she’d add time to the night just so she could sleep. Sometimes, when our ears get tired, we just tell her its night time and she hustles right off to sleep, like an Energizer Bunny whose batteries finally fell out. She has dance practice for about three hours a day, all of that condensed into the glory of one 3.5 minute dance. Normal muscles can not fly at the speeds achieved by the high kicks of the well tuned BDT dancers.

Hannah has very short time spans. It is interesting to see this in several parts of her life. Like band practice. And cheerleading. She cheers for football, and despite football being one of the most boring sports in history, who else but football players could drag out four 12 minute periods into two to four full hours? How does this effect the cheerleaders’ time you ask? It doesn’t, that is the oddest thing! Cheers last only about 30 seconds. Even after two and a half hours of football, the cheers stay the same length, the beat just changes. She also has the ability to eat in four minutes. She can consume entire meals in her 4 minute passing time between classes, day after day, hour after hour. Her locker is like a 24 hour cracker buffet. The dentist really hopes she chews occasionally. Her only other complaints about time are Algebraic. Yes, mathematically speaking, she feels that algebra works better during specific hours of the day. In Hannah’s time, algebra is not possible after 6 pm. Or before 7 am, or on weekends. She spends so much time complaining about the time algebra takes that she has no time left to do it. We can’t wait to see what time constraints she comes up with her junior year.

Liz needs to closely control her time or it gets away from her. Her time has wings and it flies. She has more watches then the rest of the family put together. Her thing is speech and everything in speech is time related. You have to be on time, you have a certain amount of time to speak in, and there is no overtime. Some categories have time limits. You get a specific number of minutes. No more time, no less time. They even do award ceremonies on controlled time. Once clap = a field of applause. You have to see it to appreciate the time saving measures it implies. When Liz has a question, and she starts looking it up on the internet, she knows she’s been on too long when the screen begins to heat up and dim from over use. We always know though, that as long as there’s still electricity, she won’t rest until she has the answer for us.

It is interesting that the dog, Frank, can also tell time. I’m sure there is some scientific explanation for dog time but he goes to bed at the same time, he wants to be let out to wait for the girls to come home at the same time, and he has this odd habit of herding cars on the driveway in a seemingly reckless fashion, but really, it is a carefully timed and crafted race around each car. He also knows to the second how long microwave popcorn takes, and just how much begging time Julie can tolerate.

Julie has the most rigid time frame in the family. Her brain compartmentalizes time in 15 minute increments. All time; work time, vacation time, sleep time. Outwardly, she tolerates things that go outside her scheduled allotments, but really she wants everything and everyone to conform. Did you know, that even when giving birth to the twins oh, so long ago, that given 15 minutes, she managed it in 13, giving her 2 spare minutes to take the annoying telemarketer phone call that we’ll never forget – probably paving the way for the entire world’s Do Not Call list activation. She’s not all short term timing. Oh, no. She also has long range timing but draws the limit at carrying more than a five year calendar at any given point. She could never work for an airline – then again, maybe she should…. She also had to get a new camera this year because she captured more moments in time than even Kodak could handle.

Everyone moves to a different beat, even though we are all subject to the meridian time line and the nuclear time clock. Our niece Sam always needs more time, and our nephews in Alaska think that because the sun doesn’t go down where they live, no one else sleeps either and if we were awake enough to remember, I’m sure we’ve had some interesting discussions during their occasional 1am phone calls. My cousin’s daughters Abbie and Emma, are swimming sensations, ready to beat out Michael Phelps in a race someday, and for the 400th time, yes, Chr’s has a brother named Mike, and no, it isn’t the same Michael Phelps that you’re thinking of, although if he needed sisters, we know three who’d take him in.

All our lives are ruled by the clock, but there are some interesting ways to beat time. TV time for example is adjustable if you have TiVo. What an amazing invention that let’s you fast forward through the commercial time periods that you might otherwise use for useful tasks like putting in another load of laundry or checking the mail. The drive through window was invented to make you think that you weren’t wasting time waiting in line – ha! It’s like an optical illusion, but really the line just moved outside to the car. Time in the car is in itself an interesting phenomenon. You either relish it or you dread it. Sometimes that decision rests on how other people around you are using up their time. We are pleased to report that we haven’t encountered any rush hours in Cannon Falls traffic, but there are sometimes jam-ups in the grocery check out lanes; Express is for fewer than 12 items!!

Sometimes you have to make time. It can be formulated using a very complicated recipe that involves car pools, calendars, text messages, and gas prices. Sometimes you have to make time and give it away to spend time doing the things you want, with the people you need. Give yourself the gift of time this holiday season. Time for one more cookie, or one more hug, or one more smile.

Thank you very much for the time you spent reading our Christmas letter. We appreciate every moment of it and hope to hear from you soon (…you will be allotted 15 minutes, reservations required…)
The Phelps – Chr’s, Julie, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Shannon

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