Yes, I know this is usually a Christmas newsletter but things have been a bit busy this year so it slipped a couple of weeks. Calling it a “New Year Newsletter” makes me feel a little less like I’m late and, hopefully, makes you slightly more likely to forgive me for not sending Christmas cards this year. Think how nice it is to receive a Christmas newsletter at a point when you’ve recovered from the barrage you normally receive right before Christmas!
So what’s up with us this year? Highlights of the year included Nikki’s first book’s publication in August and a family trip to Hawaii in July but there’s been plenty of other things going on here in Austin.
Cameron is now 13 (we have a teenager in the house!) and is in 7th Grade. Aside from some algebra problems (if anyone suggests that skipping a year and taking 9th grade pre-AP GT algebra in 7th grade is a good idea, please slap them for me) he’s getting on fine at school. He’s involved in the robotics club and is very much enjoying the hip-hop dance class he takes each week. His baritone horn playing continues and he made the Wind Ensemble (first band) at school this year. During the summer, he attended the Longhorn Band Camp at the University of Texas where he got to live in the dorm for a week and play under the direction of some of the best band conductors in the area.
Drew is 10 and still as outdoorsy as ever. He loves fishing and received a kayak for his Christmas so is planning major outings on our local creek to catch some of the large and unaware bass that live there. He’s still in Cub Scouts and is loving 4th grade at school where he has great teachers this year and where the ACE program offers him a chance to spend Fridays doing cool and interesting projects. Drew also won a state-wide award in the PTA Reflections program (a school competition for various arts) with a song he composed and sang. In the local school district, he came first in the UIL (University Interscholastic League – an inter-school competition for various academic subjects) Oral Reading competition.
Nikki continues to write children’s books and poems. Her big news this year was the publication of her first novel by Razorbill (Penguin) in August. The book, “The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy“, appears to have been well received and she’s doing quite a number of school visits and book signings including one up in New York (which Dave tagged along to) and an upcoming tour of US Department of Defense schools in Japan in March and April. She was also a featured author at this year’s Texas Book Festival. She’s in the final stage of edits for her second book which should hit the shelves in early 2014 and has also signed a contract for book number 3. In addition to the writing, she’s still teaching Zumba several times a week at the Town Lake YMCA and has built up a great community around her classes.
Dave remains at Texas Instruments writing software for their microcontroller parts. His photography hobby/business is going well and he is freelancing for a local magazine that gives him access to some great shooting opportunities such as Austin Fashion Week and the downtown concerts held over Formula 1 weekend in November. Although tempted to use his press pass for the Aerosmith concert, the kids persuaded him that Flo Rida, performing on the same night, would add to his credibility so he went to that show instead. He also added Enrique Iglesias and Nelly the following night – how cool is that? Outside Austin, he traveled to California for a week in the spring to attend a workshop in Yosemite National Park with a National Geographic photographer and also got together with a bunch of his photoblogging friends for a weekend in and around Portland, Oregon.
Aside from a few weekends away, we’ve only made a couple of trips this year. In January, we all spent a long weekend skiing in Steamboat, Colorado. It was a bit icy but we had a lovely time nonetheless. The boys enjoyed building an igloo using the 8 inches of fresh snow that fell the night before we left. Talk about great timing!
The family highlight of the year was undoubtedly our once-in-a-lifetime summer trip to Hawaii in July. We had been hoping to do this for a few years but the arrival of Nikki’s 40th birthday and our 15th wedding anniversary finally gave us a really good excuse. We spent a week on the Big Island where we snorkeled with manta rays, hiked across a recently-dormant volcano’s crater, flew in a helicopter over an active volcano, swam with sea turtles and lay on perfect, tropical beaches, then a second week on Maui where we did more snorkeling, drove the famed “Road to Hana”, took a surfing lesson and hiked in the rain forest. The highlight of the trip for Drew, our angling fan, was landing a 20lb Wahoo (or Ono as they call them in Hawaii) from the back of one of the boats we took on a snorkeling trip. The fish was about the same height as Drew and the crew were pretty impressed that a 9 year old would have the stamina (or pig-headedness?) to pull it in on his own. Overall, Hawaii greatly surpassed our already-heightened expectations and we are all left very keen on the idea of going back after a few more years of saving!
Other big news in Austin this year was a low level flyover by Space Shuttle Endeavour on the 747 carrier aircraft, and the arrival of the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix (yes, Dave is writing this letter) which was an enormous success with 117,000 people attending the brand new Circuit of the Americas on race day. Dave attended all three days of racing and managed to squeeze in a morning pit walk on the Thursday too. He was delighted to cheer for fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton who took the checkered flag.
I hope your 2012 was as exciting and fun-filled as ours was. If we’ve not already connected on Facebook, look us up and let us know how you are doing. You can find Nikki here, Cameron here, Dave here and Dave’s photography page here.
Wishing you all the very best for 2013!
Dave, Nikki, Cameron and Drew
Click on any of the thumbnails below to enter a gallery and scroll through various pictures from our year.