Family Webpage 2011
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Dear Family and Friends,

As the new year of 2012 dawns we’re compelled to reflect on the passing year.  Whether you are nearby or scattered in far destinations, you are often in our thoughts and prayers.

Lucas is 13 and finishing his last year of middle school, sporting the same shoe size as his father, but not yet taller than his mother!  He seems to breeze through his school work and enjoys playing video games like “Little Big Planet” where he can create complex machines and compose music.  He is so motivated to play games that when his Sony PS3 game machine stopped working, he figured out what was wrong, and worked with his Mother to disassemble and repair it! (Yes folks, we successfully reheated the solder ball joints of the CPU and GPU FPGAs to fix the YLOD.)  He has a new found passion for music, learning the guitar and piano during his free time over the summer. Did you know you can learn anything on the Internet? Lucas still plays the oboe at school and this year auditioned and was accepted to participate in the Select Ensemble. They are planning a trip to San Francisco this year to participate in a music competition and have some fun. High school is around the corner for him and that means marching band. Lucas plans to transition to clarinet (or saxophone) during marching season next year, and then play oboe during concert band season.  We are blessed to have him filling our home with music, whether from music he’s playing or from his video games!

Lucas shows his ability to work through pain when he’s out running with the Roadrunner’s cross country and track team. Although hindered somewhat by injury, he has made steady progress throughout each season. It’s a joy for us to watch the easy running style that he has, although we could do without the 7am start times on a Sunday morning! Hopefully cross country or track will be in Lucas’ high school future.

When you think of Lucas running, we can’t help but think of his favorite new running partner—our new dog, Delilah. In February we discovered an adorable Corgi mix at the local animal shelter and knew instantly we had to add her to the family. Delilah is basically the two boys’ dog and they take turns letting her sleep with them; all curled up under the covers, and wrapped up in the warmth of their arms and chest. The Corgi in her makes Delilah apt to herding and she attempts to herd our Labrador, Cinder. Although Cinder will take it for awhile she’ll then let Delilah know who’s the boss. We imagine the two dogs keep each other company during the day while we are gone. Although Cinder out-weighs Delilah 2-to-1, when they play tug of war with a rope toy it’s clear that Cinder allows Delilah to make some “winning” progress, just so that the game continues.

Eric is nearly 16 and is in the 10th grade at Westview High School.  Marching band is how Eric’s school year begins and he marches in the drumline. They are a wonderful, tight-knit group and we can see friendships being forged that will last past high school. Eric, with his friend Zach, won the school-wide talent show “Westview’s Got Talent“, performing a “trash can” percussion piece of their own creation. It wasn’t just the drumming that made it a big hit, but the extra flair and energy they put into the performance. They showed off how much fun they were having and shared it with the crowd. Beyond that, Eric’s passion for percussion permitted him to join the San Diego State University (SDSU) winter drumline and participate with a college level music group in regional competitions as a cymbal player.

Speaking of excitement, Eric is constantly searching out new adventures in snowboarding or mountain biking and would spend all his time practicing one or the other if he didn’t have school work.  An 8-hr day of biking or boarding is not out of the question. Mom and Dad did earn a few strands of their grey hair when he pushed his bike jumping goals a bit too far. Thankfully he suffered only a broken nose and a mild concussion because he was wearing a full face helmet and pads, plus his biking friend Dillon assessed that Eric was repeating himself and urged him to call for help. But as any good friend would do, when the fire department decided a short airlift to the main road would be the safest way to get him out of the rough terrain where the fire fighting vehicles could not drive, he filmed the helicopter take-off and posted it on YouTube.  (search “DH Mountain bike life flight” on YouTube by 96motorhead)

Let’s say a few things about school. Eric is enjoying his 3rd year of French class and dreams of traveling to France in the near future, perhaps even finding a “language immersion” opportunity. Much to his surprise and his parents’ delight, Eric is taking AP Physics and although the class is challenging, he loves the subject. It may just change Eric’s mind so that he pursues a career in physics, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Looking back on the year, we can’t help but be impressed by Eric’s enterprising skills. At the end of his 9th grade school year he came to us with a work permit to sign that would allow him to work in the high school cafeteria each day at lunch. Shortly thereafter he researched and determined that Boy Scout camps in the Los Angeles Boy Scout Council would pay 15 years old, as opposed to the San Diego Council that doesn’t pay until you are 16 yrs old. After applying, interviewing, and being offered a summer camp counselor position for the Cub Scouts at Lake Arrowhead, in the San Bernardino Mountains, he wowed them with his trick yo-yo handling skills as well as his effortless engagement with the younger boys.

Working an entire summer was eye-opening and character building for Eric in so many ways (e.g. “work” is boring; when you find the “right” job it doesn’t feel like work; there are some real slobs that never bathe; there are some kids with really horrible home lives that escape at summer camp; and finally, I love my life and I am so grateful for my family). As parents we demonstrated our support for Eric nearly every weekend when he was “off” for 24 hrs, by picking him up on Saturday and returning him to camp on Sunday. That’s over 500 miles a weekend for 8 weekends and we footed the gas bill, but we think the experience for Eric was priceless. If you’re counting, that’s two jobs for Eric – but wait there’s more! Eric also works on set-up and tear down crew at our church, requiring him to rise at the very teenage-unfriendly hour of 7am on a Sunday so he can set-up chairs, classrooms, and the band’s sound equipment at a local elementary school auditorium where our church meets.

Greg is enjoying his tenure as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster, sharing his love of the outdoors with both his sons and the young boys in the Troop.  Over the summer he planned and hiked a 50 mile backpacking trip in Kings Canyon National Park with Eric and a few other hearty Scouts, cresting over a 12,000 ft pass on the John Muir Trail.  Greg continues to enjoy the challenges of his work at General Atomics on a Navy program to design and test the next generation Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG). This government program is a new aircraft carrier landing system that will allow the Navy to land ever faster and/or heavier airplanes (F/A-18 Super Hornet) as well as the lightest unmanned aircraft. In official jargon, “AAG allows arrestment of a broader range of aircraft, reduces manning and maintenance, and provides higher reliability and safety margins.” Greg took over as the chief technical lead for the health & diagnostics portion of the AAG because of his knowledge in both the hardware, software, and communications systems arenas. He has been coordinating the final design work in San Diego and the system testing of the full-size prototype system in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Both Sonja and Greg are sporting slimmer copies of themselves in 2011. It’s been over a year of hard work and Greg is keeping off 40 lbs, while Sonja has lost 120 lbs over the last 18 months and has a goal of 30 lbs more. Our health and quality of life have improved in many ways, which makes it an awesome achievement. Of course, as some of you may know yourselves, we continue to struggle each and every day to make smarter choices. Hopefully after several years of “practice” it will get easier! Any hope?

Sonja continues to enjoy her work as a Program Manager at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. We are not well known to the public by our company name, and yet many action movies and most of Lucas’ action video games all have Predator Unmanned Aircraft flying in them, as well as what is reported in the news. Yes, that’s our airplane. I actually am the Product Line Manager for a radar payload that is installed on every Predator we sell to the Air Force. Luckily, in this time of pending government budget cuts, our unmanned air systems with a price tag in the tens of millions dollar range look much friendlier to Congress than the Northrop Grumman unmanned aircraft in the 100 million dollar range.

We were fortunate to take some wonderful vacations this year that included our extended family. In March, Greg and Lucas went to Sedona for cousin Becca’s wedding, and the opportunity to hike with Greg’s sister Suzanne, and visit with his father Rene and step-mother Clairice.  In April we camped at Great Basin National Park, where Greg’s brother Marc is a National Park Ranger.  Several inches of snow fell overnight, that we discovered at 1AM by being woken up by Eric’s announcement “the tent has collapsed!” and found it down within inches of Lucas’ nose (Sonja and Lucas would have slept right through!). Certainly a highlight of the trip was going to the local pond for trout fishing so everyone could catch at least 2 fish, and cooking them for dinner at Marc’s apartment; super fresh at less than 2 hrs old!

Over the summer, Sonja and the boys flew to Denver where Sonja’s sister, Heidi, and mother, Lia, picked them up for a driving vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The wonderful trip included a visit to Montana’s Fort Laramie (offered supplies and protection to the settler’s wagon trains on the Oregon trail prior to their journey over the Continental Divide); a visit to SD’s Custer State Park (home to a herd of 1500 free roaming bison that trotted next to our car!); and visits to the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore National Park that inspired us to dream big.

We enjoyed an end-of-year Thanksgiving week with Greg’s mother, Glenda, in the Los Angeles area so Lucas could meet with archivists from the National Archives at the Nixon Presidential Library for a school history project. We indulged in a chamber orchestra performance of Handel’s Watermusic at the stunning Disney Concert Hall, and then reveled in 4 days of snowboarding and shopping at Big Bear Lakes.

Forgive the length of the letter if you hate this kind of thing, but we decided to give you a little more detail since we don’t always manage a Holiday letter every year!

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year in 2012.

Greg, Sonja, Eric, and Lucas Chapelle