The Foxleys' 2011 Holiday Update
Hello Family and Friends, near and far ...
'Twas and interesting year, to say the least (well, for us I guess).
We started the year experiencing some very cold weather in January. Of the 20-plus trees we have planted on the property since we moved here in '05, We lost a few as a result - and some didn't grow back as fully due to the bitter cold (-7).
For some reason, as I look at that opening bit, I'm thinking "this holiday update is going to be terrible", but hang on ... it does get partially more exciting, beyond frozen trees and stuff.
In February, I got a call from corporate headquarters in Nashville, offering me a temporary assignment working in our Operations department on the 4th floor of our Store Support Center. It posed a significant opportunity professionally which I heartily accepted for a six month period. I was living in a corporate apartment for six months and working in Tennessee ... many miles away from home. Albeit being a tough change for that window of time, the company ensured I could return home every other weekend (and more, if need be). Expenses incurred were taken care of - and I was treated very well. I got to work closely with many of the company's top decision makers and officers - forging some awesome relationships with the people at Store Support. With the size our our company, the scope was huge and the opportunity was one in a million. Rarely do such opportunities come about like this - and Tina and I both knew that from the get-go. So, while we knew it would be tough, the experience was one I appreciated and valued tremendously.
I spent my days working on a multitude of projects: Creating the annual company field meeting presentations, a lot of Excel workbooks and formulas, building Access databases, Field Communications, and efforts with Work Simplification projects. On one day, I even stumbled into starring in a company training video which was downloaded to 9k+ plus stores in the field. The best part, though, was the great people with whom I worked with. Even though I was really wanting to be home, they really made things great when I was there for those six months. I need to work with corporate and see if I can get them to move the offices west ... then life would be grand.
my office for 6 months this year - Tennessee
Nonetheless, the project certainly made things difficult for the family - no doubt. I don't think we really understood that as much until when I got home again and we had to kind of 'find the groove' after 6 months of my being so remote. Now that I am back and when called to travel, not only do I cringe and have 'flashbacks' when driving to the airport, but the kids get upset as it brings back memories from the 'lost summer of '11'. Fortunately, my typical travel now is only for 2 to 4 day spreads and is nothing like the weeks-on-end where we would only see each other via the choppy screen of Skype on our computers or tablet.
One of the more difficult and stressful events that happened during my assignment in Tennessee occured on the night of Elyce's 8th birthday. I had just signed off of Skype with Tina and the kids, and put my gadgets 'to sleep' with the chargers. In that mode, all calls and texts went straight to my inbox, with me not collecting messages until waking at 5am. The next morning I took my phone off charge and saw that I had missed 10-plus calls from Tina, and then saw the texts: Gavin had broken his leg.
Gavin in his wheelchair after getting doused with water
guns at the Corrales 4th of July Parade
Right before bed, Gavin and Elyce were playing in her room when -while 'jumping around'- Gavin landed akwardly and snapped his tibia bone (ouch). I suspected he jumped off her bed as he had been known to do in the past, but the distance from her bed to where he landed seemed too far. We think he was twisting while landing. Nonetheless, the trauma and tears of the night had just started. Tina was trying to understand, through the tears, what had happened when she ran into the room. She knew whatever it was it merited a trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, Tina's parents were in town and they were able to assist once at the hospital. Gavin was a little warrior as they pulled and prodded it back into line, took X-Rays, and then put a cast on him. When I began calling in the morning, my flight was later in the day and I flew home to the chaos. For the next few nights, Gavin had trouble sleeping as the traumatic memory of the break and resulting pain was still fresh in his head. He would awake every 15 minutes and scream out loud. Obviously, no one got much sleep during that time. That first weekend, I went to a local medical supply shop and rented a wheelchair, as I knew Tina would not be able to carry him around for the extended time he would be in his cast (6-8 weeks). It was heartbreaking to see him go through this, and it obviously ruined his summer. His ongoing visits where scheduled during my visits home, where we would take him to the hospital to get X-Rays and the recasting of his leg. It took a few weeks for him to get over the trauma of that night, but he did a great job. And conveniently, using the math from the cost of this incident - I now roughly know what the dollar amount of the saying "it costs an arm and a leg" -- roughly $4,000 per limb. But, frankly, of all the parts in this summer's drama, Tina wins the award for best supporting actress. Her patience, strength, and compassion were always on display during this tough time, and I don't think I tell her enough just how much I appreciate what she does.
I returned home in August - just when his cast was removed.
On the lighter side (and ignoring chronological order), we went to Disneyland in CA this year for the kids' Spring Break. On the way (on the first day) I got a speeding ticket in the Petrified Forest national park - which Gavin kept reminding me of for most of the trip. "64 in a 40. 64 in a 40, Dad." It got to a point where Tina and I kept being reminded of the Rain Man ... all the way to California:
But, despite the $300 speeding ticket on the way (National Park costs mucho dinero), we had a ball. It was a great trip where we saw a lot of neat stuff. Pics here (sorry, I haven't labeled yet. I just rebuilt our photo pages and got all the formatting and PHP code in gear ... be patient). We drove through Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado.
clockwise from top left to bottom left: Insisting we stop to stand on a corner in Winslow, AZ, Elyce and Gavin in the teacups at Disneyland, using the zoom to act like taking a picture of Elyce - but doing a little paparazi action taking a picture of Robert Pattison on the Santa Monica pier while eating dinner at sunset, big rocks in Northern Arizona on the way home, Gavin and Elyce walking the beach in CA, Elyce in front of our hotel in Santa Monica.
It was yet another year of more work in the back. Last year we had a crew come in and tear down our prior version of our retaining wall, reset everything, rebuild, and resurface. This year, we had a landscaper come in and finish the stairs leading to the bottom of the property, put in a 'flagstone' (stamped/dyed concrete) pathway, and then top it all off with a patch of fescue grass. Pics are here. Tina and I were looking forward to this; however, the result was much more functional than we anticipated. Having a carpet of grass rolling up to our back porch really changes the dynamics of the property and cranked the useability of the back. The kids loved the brief remnants of summer spent on the grass, as the project finished in late August. It's just a little bit of turf out here in the desert ... but I promissed Tina when we moved out here six years ago (as I was wheeling our Portland lawnmower off of moving truck and into the dirt) that I eventually fire it back up one day. Success in 2011.
Elyce is in third grade this year - and continues to thrive at school. Elyce (and Gavin) both read at levels well beyond their peers - a result of Tina's start at an early age with both on nightly readings. It's common sense to most of us, but it's amazing how many kids don't seem to get a bed-time story or the essential focus on reading nowadays.
Tina and I spent many evenings discussing Gavin's first year of school after his year in Kindgarten last year ... he did well with his grades, but with his late birthday (compared to peers), Tina's parental instincts saw his struggles with some of his lessons. Gavin, while doing well with grades, didn't seem as confident as we'd like to see him. We realized if we were going to give him an opportunity to change that, this would be it. Admitedly, I was really not a fan of the move at first - until, during one of my plane trips back over the summer, I was reading the book Outliers. I won't go into detail, but a chapter I read really hit me -and based on data and case-studies, this would be his opportunity. So we held him back and he is repeating. After a few months of seeing his progress, he is a different student entirely. It is expected that he progress above the others, but his confidence and pride are astronomical. This, of course, overflows into other aspects of his being. So we know this was a great move for him.
On the tech front, when I returned from Nashville, I made the annual decision to upgrade my home office computer. I purchased a screaming fast video card, a new case, motherboard, etc. - a lot of my dream components. With gutting and rebuilding, Gavin got my leftover parts for his computer. But he still cries with bad internet connections - which is something we should post to first-world-problems. Additionally, I have finally made progress with creating a home server, which supports a shared cloud for our home network. We stream movies, music, and other media via this system. While doing this, I have had the opportunity to dig into some old hard-drives to find movies which I recently begun posting to YouTube. Old ones from when we first moved back to NM, and some even from Portland from when Elyce was still wearing diapers ... see them here. Still scanning old photos to the site in my multi-year work to archive all old paper media.
Not sure what 12 will hold for us. Professionally, my employer continues our westward expansion and I am working to have involvement in that future, be it here or wherever it may take us. As we look to the spring next year, we are looking at dogs (now that we have grass it can poop on). I took the kids to our local shelter after researching breeds online - so they could see examples of what each breed had to offer. We'll keep you posted on that one ...
We are tentatively planning a trip east to Houston to see friends and family. It has been about 3 or 4 years since we've been back, and time isn't slowing down for anyone. As the kids grow, the house seems to be getting smaller by the day ... Tina and I have been discussing that, too ... space. We'll see.
Nonetheless, we hope your year was excellent - and that 2012 proves even better. Thanks for stopping by.
Feel free to say "hi"!
Gavin - rocking his multi-screen monster