Shainline Family, 2021
Owen, Katie, and Jeff

This is a post about the past year in our lives, with particular attention to Owen's changes. It is a post about progress, that which slips just under our awareness because it is so gradual. It is also about rapid transformations, the way snow can fall silently right until an avalanche. And even if it seems like a contradiction, there is a theme of the timeless aspects of the human family.

Early this Year

As a little introduction to our neighborhood, there is a friendly if standoffish cat that wanders, front yards and back. It looks healthy and has a collar with phone number, address, and the name, "Butthole".

Growing and Exploring

Like so many little people, he likes to try on bigger shoes.


"Dad wear shoes. Dad wear shoes.

Gramma's shoes. Gramma's shoes. Dad wear shoes upstairs. Dad go upstairs.

Love is in the water,
love is in the air....
Heaven let your light shine down.

Might come off. Might come off. My dad's...Owen hi...Owen's shoes stay on."

Through the year, Owen grew as an explorer. He was tentatively hunting easter eggs in April and roaming with a smile in July.

Hunting Easter eggs
Owen near his hiking backpack in Breckenridge

As he grows and explores autonomously, there are basic things we need to teach him. Here he is learning about crossing the street.

"Go cross street.
Alright, what do you want...what do you do to cross the street, bud?
No cars, no cars.
What about this car?
This car!
Okay, now there are no cars, so we can cross over if you want to.

Go across.
Okay, you want to back? You gotta check again.
No cars. No cars. That car coming.
No cars, no cars. No cars, no cars. Let's cross!"

By November he was leading us on expeditions.

Owen pointing in a part at sunset

Owen has become a major contributor to the household chores. Here he is vacuuming in January.

In February he was giving lessons on how to best shovel the sidewalk.

Owen shoveling snow

He made major contributions to spring cleaning.

"Dad get up. Dad get up. Sweep the grass off. Dad do it. Sweep my grass off."

Owen is turning out to be very naturally athletic. He's getting faster all the time.

Owen making a break for it with his mom snatching him by the diaper.
Owen playing in a sprinkler

Look for him in the 2038 Winter Olympics. He could be a world class bobsledder. Or maybe he’ll popularize winter cyclocross.

Or it might be that he continues with baseball-golf trucking.

"Want go get my truck."

Or surfing might be more his style.


His skills keep improving.

Because he is clearly profoundly gifted as an athlete, we got him a basketball hoop for Christmas.

"Dad—Mom, there's a basketball hoop!
There is! Whoa! Look at that!
Almost! Mom, can you try throwing it up in the basketball hoop?
There you got one! Cool!
Mom, you can use the small one.
Okay, I'll play with this one.

There's a basketball hoop at the pool.
There is a basketball hoop at the pool. Now you have one at home.
Almost! Good shot! "

He has also explored and developed his skills as a musician. In March, he started with a wind instrument.

He answers the recorder like a phone and says, "Hi, Grandma!"

In the summer, Pop Mike gave Owen a guitar lesson.

Career speculation

One of those eternal pasttimes for parents is to speculate on how their child's early interests reveal future career paths.

Owen practicing dentistry. Owen practicing dentistry. Owen practicing dentistry.
    "Those are probably nice socks.
    They're what?
    They're probably—those are probably nice socks.
    I bet this toothbrush does do it quicker!
    I think so, yeah. You're doing a good job on all the ups and downs and now let's do the front.
    This one does go quicker.
    It is bigger. It covers more groud. Do like this—eeeeh—to get the bottom on the front.
    That's good to get the top ones.
    Member where we do—member where we did last night we did. Member where we did last night, Mom? We did...that. And member last night we were brushing teeth...we were jumping and brushing teeth.
    I'm certain we did not jump while we brushed our teeth.
    I did it with Dad. I did...
    You did?
    With Dad. Member when we did, Dad? We brushed teeth and jumped.
    Honestly, no, I don't remember that, but—
    I remember. Do you remember brushing teeth and down and jumping and brushing teeth, Mom?
    Now I do.
    I do. "
Entomology and specifically myrmecology

Here Katie and Owen observe an ant colony in spring.

Owen and his mom studying ants
"Okay, you're gonna give me a covid test?"
"Might tickle little bit. It's not plugged in yet."
"Oh, okay."
"So we can't do it...plug it in..."
"Tell me when it's ready."
"Plug. Now it's plugged in!"
"Oh, okay."
"Gonna tickle little bit."

In this clip Owen is on a phone call with Pop Carl (aka Bap), and Owen describes a painting he made for Bap.

Owen painting at school

Owen tried his hand at farming as a possible vocation.

"I'm riding my tractor."

He worked hard through the summer months. In August, Great-Grandpa Gary taught Owen how to shuck corn. In September, Nel helped Owen harvest apples.

Pop Gary
Owen eating an apple

By October, he was ready to run the farm.


Because of his interest in agriculture as a possible career path, Katie fabricated this nearly functional tractor for him to ride on Halloween.


He became deeply fascinated by lawn maintenance. At present, one would have to wager this is his most likely career path.

"I'm mowing today. That I am doing. See this is my blade and this my blade. See, I'm mowing.

I'm cutting these off for them to grow. I'm cutting these off. I'm cutting these off cause they are big. We should mow this part.

What do you see over there?
A lawn mower. Dad want pick want pick me up and show you if there's a lawnmower in there. A lawnmower.
Do you want—what do you want to do with it?
Play with it, and mow this lawn."
What is constant across generations?

Men are resourceful. Jeff made great progress helping Owen understand the proper ways to use sticks.

Jeff up a ladder with a stick
Owen with a stick

Little boys outgrow little boxes.

Owen in a box. Owen in a box. Owen in a box.

Like his parents, Owen loves the outdoors.

Owen by the lake
Owen with his mom by the creek

Owen leaning on a tree by the creek
Owen with a stick


And also like his parents, Owen loves to read.

Owen reading. Owen reading. Owen reading.
Owen observing his teacher reading at school

There was a mass shooting at our local grocery store, the same store where Katie's grandparents have shopped for decades, where her uncle made his career as a manager. Katie and Owen had been there the day before.

An example of the cost of gun violence
An example of the cost of gun violence

We attended a memorial ceremony at the nearby high school.


If you look closely you can see the moon and the military choppers both circling the Earth.


There was no single change that turned the muskets of our founders into the assault rifles that now plague our public spaces. Just incremental technological and cultural innovation. But geez, those bullets ripped right through our community almost as fast as the machine gun kick back. Ten of us never got to breathe again.

So that's how our neighborhood store was taken down by a disaster. We've been doing more shopping at Costco a couple miles down the highway. Buying bulk has financial and environmental benefits.

Summer Vacations

In July we took a trip to the Brown-Stonbraker cabin outside Breckenridge.




In September we took a trip to San Diego to celebrate Grandma Ellen's retirement and 70th birthday. We rented a big house with her and with Jeff's sister's family.

San Diego
San Diego

San Diego
San Diego

Katie's cousin Ryan lives a few hours north of San Diego, and they were kind enough to make a trip down for an afternoon at the beach and an evening of child's play. One thing that will never change is the value of family—broad and deep.

San Diego
San Diego


Owen and Mom sure love each other.

Mom and Owen
Mom and Owen

Mom and Owen
Mom and Owen

"You're my mother.

Owen is extremely fortunate to have meaningful connections with all his grandparents and several great grandparents.

Owen with Grandma Ellen
Jeff with his mom
Owen with Pop Mike. Owen with Pop Mike. Owen with Pop Mike.
Owen with Pop Kim
Grandma Vickie
Grandma Vickie

Grandma Helen

At the playground

We spend a lot of time at our neighborhood playgrounds.


10_october_03.jpg 10_october_04.jpg 10_october_07.jpg

"Go down. I want my blue truck. I'm gonna come down."

"Dad wanna get my truck."
"How would you ask for that, dude?"

"Dad, help Owen dump this. Get this and this wiper and move it right on there kick it right there and move it and ..."

"...and put it on there...twigs there I'm putting them on. Now we're gonna get out."

"Take it and all mow this all up. Gonna mow this crumbs all up into little tiny pieces. Take a blade and put it here and rub it all up. And now we're gonna get some more blade and put it here. We're fixing this road. Put some crumbs over. We're making a road for a ground and that's good."
"Open it and open and open and get in the car and drive. We're getting in car. Dad get in. Dad get in that car."

"Could you sit? That is not safe standing up." "Huh uh. We don't stand up when we're in a car." "Don't stand up! That's not safe! ...that's that how to those away and dump them. Now we're gonna get out. Can you get out, Dad?"

"This is your stove, Dad." "That's my stove over there?" Yes." "And can you use that stove, too?" "Yeah, what are you doing?" "I'm making blueberries on here." "What are you making on there?" "Blueberry soup." "Blueberry soup?" "Is this somebody else's?" "Yeah, I think that's somebody else's shovel. It was here when we got here." "So we're playing with it." "Yeah." "Somebody didn't take it home with them." "That's right, dude."

"I did now I'm come down. Woodchips in my butt. There's woodchips in my butt, Dad."

"Can you stand on here and I can throw it to you and kick it to me and I'll kick it back to you. We do this all together."

"Dad, can you go down this bumpy slide?"
He grows and grows into a litte person

In last year's annual post we had a video of him toppling towers his mother built. This year he's become somewhat more constructive.

"A tunnel right there."
"Yeah, there's a circle there. Do you want to stick this? Cylinder goes in there. Try this one on this one...No!!!"
"Put that back gether."

"Look at that beautiful tower you built."
"Get more."
"You want to get some more? Let's see..."

"But look—see how strong it is? Cause we built a strong foundation. So the whole thing didn't get destroyed. We can keep building."
"What are these things?"
"Those are some precarious pillars."
"Is this what you put on there and I did put this on there so it could be a balancer?"
"Yeah, a balancer—I like that idea."
"I'd like it when there was a band-dig. (?) I like doing this band-dig. (?)"
"Oooh...oh no!"
"Should we make another one?"

"A frog! A frog! A frog! This on is on their head. This is almost tall, Dad! Dad, this is almost tall."

This was the last time he ever rode in his first car seat. (Compare to the first time he ever rode in that car seat.)

Owen playing
Owen palying

He has made good use of the phrase, "Can you talk about it?" to learn about subjects that are new to him.

"What's in the red house?" "Can you talk about it?"

"Can you talk see it...with my face?"

"Can you talk about it?"

"Can you talk about this page?"

"What is this doing right here?" "What do you think it is, Owen?" "Can you talk about it, Mom?"

It is often a delight to hear his solo chatter in bed after we turn his lights out. We try not to be creeps and spy on him, but I couldn't help myself from recording a few adorable clips.

"Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are. I'm ready to sing, Dad!

Yeah! Baah, baah, black sheep. Have you anywhere? Baah, baah, black sheep. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags for... One for master. One for mister.

Yeah! Come here, catamaran. Come here. Come here, catamaran. Come here. Come here, catamaran. Come join me. Come here, catamaran. Come. Come here, catamaran. Come. Join. Me."

Every day he seemed like the same little guy as the day before, but when you see clips in close succession the development is evident.

"Dad?" "What are you trying to do, bud?" "Take this off and see what's going on in there. Trying to fix it, but it doesn't work." "Why do you want to see what's going on in there?" "I'm trying to fix it. That way it work a little better."

"Dad, lamb saw a spider!" "Lamb saw a spider?" "Yes." "Where was it?" "It was down on the ground really far." "Why was it down there?" "Cause he just—cause he just scampered right down here on—and up to that on the trashcan and he scampered right up the same tree...(undecipherable)...and he scampered right up the very same tree."

"Actually, kind of does taste like a blueberry." "Yeah, little, tiny, yellow blueberries." "Dad, here's one for you to try. Mom, here's one for you to try." "Oh, thank you. Thanks for sharing."

"Dad, can you pick pick one heavy one—Dad, you could pick this heavy one up if you want." "What are you gonna do with it?" "Drop it...Dad, you could pick this one up...Isn't it—isn't the big ones pretty heavy? Dad, how bout you do this one and I'll do that one? I was worried if it was—I was worried if it would fall." "Did it fall?" "No." "What do you see over there?" "Rainbows!"

"If you crack the walls open I'll be so sad, and we need to get some new ones. When you crack these open—we'll—when we get some new ones, will they be green? Or purple?" "We can get whatever color you want, dude." "I think they will be red. Maybe red."

"I actually don't know which one is faster—a trot or a canter." (A canter is faster.)

"I build a—I get all these out here right here, and I'll attach it to... Felix and Henry always put their train—always put their Legos on top of one of these things with their tire. Dad? Dad? Now we can play back here. Dad, I want you to play with me back here."

"People are in here. Wait—we need one on this hut—hit—hitch. Where is a train to put on this hitch right here?"

"Mom? Mom, just put put your finger—put your hand on—on the water. Isn't it nice and warm, Mom? Dad, I want some more water in here. I want you put that kind of water in here. Mom—Mom, Dad gonna put that kind of water in here. That is cold. Mom, can you feel that water?" "That is pretty cold." "Why's it pretty cold?" "Came out of the fridge." "Dad—Mom, it'll be kind of cool next time. Mom, next time we could fill up this bag with water, and we could put our hand in it. Next—next time we'll remember that. Next time. I'm gonna drop this back in. I wanna go down stairs."

We were in the news again just before the new year. There has been a great deal of wind lately, but on the 30th it was particularly severe. It brought down power lines, and one of them sparked a fire in the open space a few miles down the highway. Acres of grass burned and spread fast, consuming over 600 homes in neighboring towns of Superior, Louisville, and Broomfield, places where Katie and Jeff have lived and have friends and family.


One of the areas that burned contained the Costco where we had been shopping since the massacre at King Soopers. So, that's how our other grocery store was taken down by disaster. Welp, back to farming. Good thing Owen's been honing his skills.

Here are some images from a walk through our neighboorhood that night. The downed power line was a block away, but luckily didn't start a fire.

Damage from wind
Damage from wind


Katie's Aunt and Uncle lost their home. They were able to grab three photo albums and almost nothing else. Here is a link to their Go Fund Me page. This is their house on New Year's Eve.


Surely this is just some bad weather, like the other floods, hail, and tornadoes that have torn similar towns to tatters. Shall we smile and keep hoping the silent snowfall is benign?

Personal Updates
Katie Teaching

The concept of change is all too familiar for teachers (again) this year. Katie is still teaching 8th grade language arts at Centennial Middle School. In January, students returned to school in a "hybrid" model, meaning half the class learned remotely from home while the other half attended class in person.

Katie will be the first to tell you that this scenario provides the worst possible conditions for learning. Still, she gave it her all. You can read more about her experience in this Boulder Weekly article that explores how teachers were supporting students through the pandemic.

Despite the impossible circumstances, Katie managed to contribute to a district-wide "Perspectives" project, which you can read more about in this Daily Camera article.

This school year is a bit more "normal" as students are all back in person, but it's still a far cry from ideal. One thing that remains constant in the life of educators is the belief that things can change. So, we march on in service to the young adults in front of us and the future we share.


Jeff would like to call attention to two stand-out advances in science and technology from the year. First, of course, is the suite of covid vaccines. The incredible speed of realization and effectiveness for reducing disease severity are a proud reminder of the legacy of vaccine development going back to the work of Jenner around 1796 as well as the fundamental research in the wake of the sars outbreaks in the early 2000s. Countless millions of lives we're saved, infections subdued, and while 2021 was not unfettered butterflies and sunshine, the vaccine enabled us to be much safer while having a lot more fun than the year before.

The second advance is the Webb Space Telescope that launched on Christmas day. Twenty-five years in design and construction building on the initial work of legends like Isaac Newton, this space telescope will orbit a million miles away, in the dark of Earth's shadow and the cold of space. It's sensors are infrared (as opposed to the primarily visible-wavelength sensors of Hubble), so Webb will see light from further back in time, potentially observing the elusive formation of the first generation of stars, and Webb will also look for the infrared signatures of life on recently discovered exoplanets. When Pop Russ was born, we didn't know if anything existed beyond our galaxy. We didn't know if the universe had been here eternally or had a starting point. Now we have answers to these questions, and deeper mysteries remain. We learn, then refine our instruments, then learn, then refine, and we move forward. None of it is fast, but it is steady.

The work from DeepMind on protein folding is also incredibly exciting. We'll leave it at that.

As a personal anecdote, Jeff gave a contributed talk at a conference a few years ago, and afterward an editor from an academic journal invited him to write a perspective article about his research field. The paper was published this year with the title, "Optoelectronic Intelligence". It caught the attention of a science podcaster who invited Jeff for an interview (video, podcast). Now over a quarter million people are aware of Jeff's work. Just before Christmas he submitted a proposal to NASA requesting support to develop a superconducting single-photon sensor concept for use in future telescopes based on the same optoelectronic technology he's developing for cognitive computing. If it stands a chance of working, it won't be for several decades, hopefully prior to retirement. But maybe Owen will see through that telescope's eyes. The human mission spans generations.

Jeff's work is based on the idea that if we had a deeper understanding of what nature is, what we're doing here, and where technology is going, we might find unifying purpose across humanity. At present it feels as if we are gaining that understanding more slowly than we are unraveling. But there are no shortcuts, so 2022 will be a year of putting one foot right in front of the other, just like all the years before.

And, Jeff loves his wife and deeply appreicates all the support from his family that makes his work possible.


You have seen Owen's growth through this post as he grew to two-and-two-thirds years old. He spends two days a week with his grandparents and attends school on the NIST campus where Jeff works the other three days. He was in the toddlers class this year, and starting in January he will move up to preschool! Due to covid, parents are no longer allowed into the classrooms, but his teachers send us pictures every day. As far as we can tell, he spends his days just fuckin' groovin'.


At the close of 2021, here are Owen's reflections on the year:

"Owen—today is the last day of the year, and tomorrow's gonna be a new year. So what did you learn this year?" "Blocks!" "You learned blocks?" "Yes." "What was your favorite thing that happened this year?" "Umm...learning how to do letters." "I'm just gonna ask you a different time: what did you learn this year?" "Playing with letters. And also play—knocking mountains down."

That's our family in 2021. Though times have been a bit tough, we have been unreasonably fortunate. We thank our families and communities for great blessings. If we, collectively, can focus on our common threads, perhaps we can mend our fraying tapestry. Let's remember that our greatest mission is to nurture our world for our children. We love all of you and wish you the best in 2022.


Owen and his mother play a game where they look at each other with faces down but eyes up, exchange funny stares, then laugh like old bitties.

He is all too observant.

"Mom's dirty armpit!" "It's not that dirty. It will be dirty when I get back." "Can you watch—can you go to window, Dad, and watch Mom go on a run?"

"Let's see on this—" "This on is also the same clean." (Inspection) "This is dirty." "No! It's clean." "It's a little bit dirty." "Maybe a little bit, but I just cleaned 'em and shaved 'em." "Sometimes they be dirty." "Sometimes they're dirty, but not very often."

Potty training is a big goal for 2022.