If I’m lucky, I’ll actually get the “Christmas Newsletter” out before Christmas this year! Here’s a rundown on the major milestones in the Wilson/Loftin family year. For a change, I’ll run through each of us in turn starting from the youngest.
Drew has had a pretty packed 2014. Looking through the photos from the year, three of the events worthy of note happened in January. After a great deal of hard work, he gained the Arrow of Light, the highest award a Cub Scout can achieve in the US and was presented with his arrow in a fireside ceremony conducted by some of the older boys from Scout Troop 101. January also saw Drew and Dave making a long-weekend trip to Colorado for some skiing and fun in Breckenridge. Nikki and Cameron decided to remain home and relatively warm but we added to the party with a lovely visit from Steve Glennon who now lives in Boulder. He and Dave had a great time catching up with all our respective family and career news.
It may have been cold in Colorado but it was even colder (or, at least, felt that way) when we got back to Texas. The Hays County Livestock Show was at the end of the month and coincided with a polar front which pulled the temperatures down into the teens (Farenheit) right when all the animals had to take up residence at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park arena. Drew showed his two goats, Abitha and Ellen, and got into the auction where he “sold” Abitha for almost $1000! At this level of competition, the sales price is basically a donation to the youngster who raised the animal so Abitha came home with us afterwards. He has kept up a keen interest in the 4-H Club and is now an officer even though it’s only his second year as a member.
Drew now has 3 goats and a brand new goat shed after the prefab metal shed that Dave built last year was picked up and destroyed during a very nasty storm in June (which also claimed many trees on our lot and one of our air conditioners which happened to be underneath one of the falling trees).
Aside from 4-H, Drew has also become very interested in karate and has worked his way through 4 belt levels this year. He’s now a green belt and working hard on the skills he needs for blue.
Even with all the hobbies, Drew is also managing to find time to attend school 🙂 He moved up to Dripping Springs Middle School this year (yes, we no longer have any kids in Elementary School – how old do you think that makes Dave and Nikki feel?). He’s enjoying the new school and his grades seem to suggest that it’s agreeing with him.
Cameron’s year started with the end of his cotillion class (he now knows how to use cutlery properly and how to do various dances). He also reached the end of confirmation classes and was confirmed a member of New Life Lutheran Church on a wet day in June. Aside from these activities, his year has been pretty much been dominated by the move to Dripping Springs High School and one thing there – Tiger Band. Dripping Springs is well known for its amazing marching band and Cameron has taken to it with gusto. Starting in late July, he attended 6:45am rehearsals 4 days a week, evening rehearsals and band camp to get ready for the marching season. The band’s show evolved during the football season (with the band performing increasingly long sections of it at every home and away game) until it was complete in time for the season-end marching competitions in Austin, Houston and, a special this year, Atlanta, Georgia. The band put on an amazing show, winning in Houston and coming 6th in the national-level competition in Atlanta (5th equal on points but they lost a place in the tie-breaker). Here’s their winning performance from the Houston competition they attended.
Nikki continues to write, though with the publication of her second novel, “Nightingale’s Nest”, back in February, she has found that a fair bit of her writing time is being eaten up in promotional activities, conference speaking and school visits. The book has been well received by critics and acquired a much-coveted Kirkus star along with several other good reviews from influential publications. Nikki’s first book, “The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy”, has been chosen for the Sequoyah List in Oklahoma (a recommended reading list for children in the state school system) so she has spent some time up there visiting schools and has plans for several more trips over the next three months or so. Her third book, “Wish Girl“, will be published in February. It, too, has received a starred review from Kirkus and foreign rights have already been sold to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and China.
With all her writing-related activities, she had to give up her regular Zumba teaching job at the Town Lake YMCA but she’s still teaching occasional classes as a sub.
Travel, for fun rather than work, has also figured highly in Nikki’s 2014. Through an unfortunate mishap involving our niece’s passport, she ended up taking two trips to Paris in the spring, the first with Dave who managed to take a week off work and buy a ticket at one day’s notice, and the second in May after Taryn’s passport problem was rectified. As if that wasn’t enough, she also crossed the pond again in July for our rather excellent summer trip back to the UK.
The summer holiday back to the UK was a highlight for all of us. We spent a weekend in London using Ian and Jenny’s home in Windsor as our base and visiting Windsor Castle and London city centre, the London Eye, the South Bank, Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and, of course, Hamleys that weekend. After this, we took the train to Edinburgh for a few days in Lanark before heading off for a week on the island of Mull of the west coast of Scotland. The weather was fabulous and we spent our time hiking around, visiting Iona, seeing how cheese is made on a working dairy farm and, the absolute highlight, a boat visit to the island of Lunga to see the puffins and other seabirds. Another weekend in Windsor with the whole family rounded out a fantastic trip.
Dave has seen a fair bit of change this year. In late January, Texas Instruments announced that it would be closing its Austin Design Center in December and provided helpful layoff dates in advance to all the employees, most of which were 6 to 10 months in the future. Rather than twiddling his thumbs until the end of September, Dave (and the vast majority of his colleagues) decided to walk away from the promised redundancy payments and started job-hunting immediately. By April he had two great offers and decided to join Apple’s Austin design center. It was a move back into graphics but an area he had not worked in before so offered lots of opportunity to learn new things and work in a very different environment. After 7 months at Apple, he is having a great time and learning an enormous amount in an amazingly exciting and stimulating environment!
Outside work, he continues to help mentor the Dripping Springs Middle School robotics team and is still very much involved in photography both through photoblogging and teaching classes at the local camera store. He is still attending races at Circuit of the Americas and this year started volunteering as a photographer shuttle bus driver, a gig that gives him exciting access at races but which does not, unfortunately, grant him trackside access for photography (most of the time).
The photography highlight of the year was his now-annual long weekend with a bunch of photoblogging buddies from around the country. The “NxNW” group (so named following the first trip to Oregon a few years ago) met in Boston in early October and spent a weekend in Acadia National Park in Maine. Despite missing the first day of shooting in Boston due to weather-related airline delays, Dave caught up with the group in time to take in the whole Maine portion of the weekend. The 4:30am wake-up calls were definitely worth it when you see some of the sunrise photos taken on the trip.
As if all these trips weren’t enough, Dave rounded off the year with a surprise trip back to Lanark at the end of November. Dave’s Dad turned 80 this year so various surprise parties had been arranged. Although the November weather isn’t usually great for visiting, the trip was absolutely lovely with a lot of time spent hanging around with friends and family. Dad was genuinely surprised to find his “foreign son” standing on the doorstep on his birthday morning!
Overall, then, 2014 has been an exciting year for all of us. We remain happy and healthy and hope that all of our friends and family had an equally enjoyable, safe and memorable year.
Wishing you all the best for 2015 and beyond,
Dave, Nikki, Cameron and Drew.