It's already time for another Christmas newsletter? Surely not? Isn't it strange how time flies faster the older you get? Anyway, rather than get sidetracked by a potentially rather deep philosophical discussion, here's the latest news from the Wilson/Loftin clan.
Overall, this has been a pretty good year for us all - no serious family problems, major illnesses, bereavements, losses of jobs or other catastrophies, thank goodness. We end the year in good health and with everyone in the family doing well (as far as I can tell).
Both boys are still at Rooster Springs Elementary School. Cameron is now in 4th grade and Drew is in 1st. They have good teachers and great friends in their classes so school is going well. Cameron won various medals at the end of his 3rd grade including the Advanced Reader prize and he is reading fast and furiously to gain more AR points this year. Drew, coached my Momo Rae, is very much the artist and has several paintings hanging in the house. He just received a pottery kit from Grandpa for his birthday so we are looking forward to some sculpture to add to his growing collection of works.
The boys also changed piano teacher this year and are getting on very well indeed. No longer do we have to have daily fights over practice - they both enjoy playing now! Their first recital with their new teacher was a couple of weeks ago and it went very well.
Another activity that is involving the whole family is Cub Scouts. Dave is leader of Cameron's Webelos den and Drew has just joined Tigers. We've all been camping and, despite this year's drought, managed not to set any wildfires or otherwise get into too much trouble. Cameron and Dave attended the Webelos Woods camp, a special camp for the older boys in Cubs which introduces them to some of the activities they can expect when they move up to Boy Scouts, and had a blast building fires, climbing rope bridges, geocaching and generally running around a Hill Country ranch for a couple of days in October.
Nikki has had a busy year of writing. She had several essays published in local and statewide magazines, sold a short story to "Boy's Life", the national Cub Scout magazine, and won the Writers' League of Texas manuscript competition in the spring. In addition to essays, she finished two books for middle grade kids and started a couple of others. She is about to get all high-brow and start wearing a beret after having a couple of poems accepted in literary journals.
A great deal of her time this year was spent in the hunt for a literary agent - writing and submitting query letters, entering competitions and researching agencies. Thankfully, this paid off in October when she signed with Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary Management in New York. This came as a result of winning the national Backspace Manuscript Competition which also saw Nikki head to New York for 3 days to attend their annual conference (with Dave in tow thanks to an air fare war between American Airlines and JetBlue). Her first book is now on submission to editors and we all have our fingers crossed!
To keep from going crazy from the stress of waiting to hear from New York editors, she teaches Zumba aerobics at the Town Lake YMCA too.
Dave is still working in the same job but now has a different employer. Luminary Micro was acquired by Texas Instruments in May and his office is now "Texas Instruments - Advanced Embedded Control, Austin." Although he spends most of his time in the office, he did manage to visit Cleveland and San Diego to support Luminary products in use by teams competing in regional FIRST Robotics Competitions (if you don't know about FIRST, please click the link - it's an amazing organisation founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen that promotes science and technology through competitions for school kids). Thankfully, little went wrong with the equipment so most of his time was spent acting as event photographer! He also attended the ARM TechCon3 conference in Santa Clara in October and presented a paper on embedded web server technology. If you are suffering insomnia, you can even watch his presentation on the web.
Outside work (and, going by the last paragraph, sometimes inside it), Dave is still a fanatical photographer and has exhibited in several more shows this year in the Austin and Houston areas. He is currently a featured artist at ArtMuse.com, an online, curated gallery. You can keep up with his latest images either on his main photoblog or via Flickr. Being a tech-savvy sort of person, you can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Imagekind, ClusterShot and Getty Images :-)
As a family, we've enjoyed several wonderful trips this year. In the summer, we all headed back to Lanark in time for Lanimer Week, Dave's home town gala week. The weather was wonderful and the procession on Thursday was a huge hit with the boys (and their parents). After the festivities, we headed south to meet up with the rest of the family for a lovely week in an isolated farmhouse next to Ennerdale Water in the English Lake District. Ian, Jenny, Harriet and Annabelle, Al, Yvette and Beth, Grandpa, Dave, Nikki, Cameron and Drew spent a week hillwalking, catching fish in the lake and mucking around by the stream that flowed through the garden. Altogether a lovely week and a great chance for the cousins to get to know each other and the grandparent, aunts and uncles to relax.
On the way home from our British trip, we managed to break our journey and had another mini-holiday in Toronto where we headed to the top of the CN Tower, spent a day in Ontario Place and wandered around the downtown area. Dave fell in love with Toronto 20 years ago and is pleased that the rest of the family now also appreciate this great city.
Later in the summer, when Dave's vacation time was completely exhausted, Nikki and the boys took a road trip with her mother, Rae, to visit brother Ryan and his family in Cincinatti, Ohio. They were gone for a week and had fun, breaking the journey in Nashville, Tennessee to visit the Adventure Science Center on the way north and at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky on the way home. As if this weren't enough, we rounded off the summer with a long weekend in Aunt Thanh's condo on South Padre Island where 3 days of sun, sea and sand got us all ready for the start of the new school year.
I think that's about it for 2009. If you want to keep up with what we're doing, you can check out our family pictures or read Dave's or Nikki's blogs. Alternatively, wait for our 2010 newsletter since, if past experience is anything to go on, I'm sure I'll be writing it in what seems like no time at all.
All the best for Christmas and have a safe, prosperous and enjoyable New Year!