Hello Family and Friends!

Another year has passed. Seems that time keeps going more and more quickly. Read an article about this phenomenom recently, blaming it on 'time perception of age' ... meaning: when we are younger, our lifetimes are shorter - thereby altering the perception of a segment of time as being a larger portion of our lives. For example: a three year old's year is 1/3rd of his or her life, but to a thirty year old's, it is 1/30th. I'll just say that this year has flown by and seems a lot quicker than less than one fortieth-ish of my life. I keep saying that I wish the kids would stop growing - the days of them being cute are dissipating. With that, though, is the excitement of exploring their growing maturity and development each day.

Last year at this time, we had the house re-stuccoed - and while doing do, installed rain gutters and a rain-water collecting barrel system from the existing 'canales'. In the US southwest, rain is not as common as most areas. We live in a desert! However, when the water comes down, it tends to do so in heavy torrents. That can cause problems with a flat-pitched, pueblo-style home and our surrounding landscape. But now we have a system that will collect over 600 gallons of beautiful water when storms do hit. We have the barrels on both sides of the house, and they have done a heck of a job of doing their job. They are daisy-chained so they feed into each other, and I we empty after each rainfall towards the lower half of the property for the many trees and plants we have installed over the years. This coming spring, my goal is to connect them to our drip system with a pump and automated swtich, which will make the process of emptying a snap.

Another area of fun I've been delving in is home automation. There has been a lot of press on the concept this year, and I was kind of old school with X-10 back in the early 00's. Nowadays, the technology is turning into 'the internet of things' - where everything is web-based with IP addresses, etc. I am in the middle of connecting some cams to the front and back of the house, and have a collection building of web-controlled lighting, etc. For instance, when the mail arrives, we all receive text messages. It's a hobby, I guess.

Over the summer, we refinished our wood features out front. This was a pain. We spent quite a few weekends sanding the poles and front door down - removing years of wear, varnish, and stain. We re-stained multiple times and varnished.

I've kind of been promoted at work. It’s hard to explain (I'm temp, but we are hoping that prefix changes soon) - overseeing Colorado, New Mexico, NW Texas - overall, about 130 locations. A lot more responsibility, a lot more traveling.

Tina was officially certified to substitute teach this year. With the kids at school more and more, and always at the school anyway - volunteering - it seemed to make sense for her. It's nice to get paid for what she was doing since the kids have been in school.One of the big hits this year for us as parents has been the iAllowance app. We sat down with the kids in the spring and created a cumulative list of chores and agreed on a dollar-value to each. This stemmed from the kids' desire to get cash now, instead of 'rewards' (like going to the park, McDonalds, a movie, etc). I have the app on my tablet, and check them off once a particular task has been completed, thereby supplying them with a running total of spending cash. It has worked very well. Over the past few years, I have tried quite a few different apps for this purpose - and this year, I researched very thoroughly with specific parameters for this purpose. The kids have definitely focused on the concept of working for money, which has definitely helped around the house - as well as helped in their understanding of commerce and stocks (they can purchase stocks, too).

Gavin continues his fluency with all things tech. This year, he and Elyce have been obsessed with Minecraft. In the spring, he built his own Minecraft server. Not exactly sure what that means entirely, but do know that he ran to me one morning giddy with excitement in that he had it built and was now hosting players. What has been interesting to watch with Gavin, of late, is his interest in football. This season he has been watching with us each week. It is quite amazing to realize how much of a sponge he is with sports. He has a knack for remembering so many facts, teams, standings, etc. He's becoming the Rainman of Football.

From the time we spent living in Oregon ten years ago, we kind of adopted the Oregon Ducks as our college team to follow since moving there in '00. As they have been having a bang-up year this year, they have been particularly fun to follow this season. Gavin is passionate about them and Mariota (who won the Heisman this year!). For years, I have definitely looked forward to 'throwing the ball' around with Gavin, and he has certainly been obliged. I have to admit it is one of my favorite things to do as a dad - tossing the ball around with Gavin.

We went to CA in '12 and did the Disneyland thing - but with that, came the regret of not having more time to see the other draws that CA has, ie other themeparks, the beaches, and just time to explore some other areas of the coast. So this year, we made up for that. For the kids' Spring Break, we went to CA Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Hollywood, and a couple of beaches on the CA coast: Coronado in San Diego and La Jolla. We had a lot of fun – pictures can be found here. It was awesome!

Gregory (Dave’s sister’s oldest son) got married on July 22nd in Houston. It was a very brief visit for us, really. We literally drove into town, went to the wedding, and got back on the road. On the way back, though, we hit San Antonio Riverwalk and a water park (that was not really planned, Tina just mentioned she had not seen it as we were driving through - and I just made a spontaneous call on it).

A lot of reading of the Harry Potter series this year with the kids. Earlier in the year, the kids wanted to read the series, so we are reading together with Gavin (Elyce already completed them), and as we finish each book we watch the movie. It's been fun - but best of all is their veracity for reading


Last year I purchased a GoPro 3 silver, this year upgraded to a 3+ - and spent some time using it this year. One of our favorite videos is of Lucy and her new "Fetch" gear, which attaches the camera to her chest so she can take some awesome vids, as you will see below (video coming) ... Lucy (who we rescued from the shelter last year) has been such an awesome dog for us, and has definitely integrated well into our home. Wallie, our cat, may think otherwise as they continue to fight over beds.

Elyce started Middle School this year as a 6th grader. She seemed to get more and more nervous as the summer progressed; although, she wouldn’t admit that. Definitely starting to get the rolling eyes with Mom and Dad. Ugh. Can't wait for the teenage years ahead .../s

A weekend or so ago, we took the kids to go see the local, annual showing of the Nutcracker. An annual tradition by many families, we thought it would be neat to take them to see it. It had been years since Tina had seen it - and I don't think I had ever seen it in its traditinional incarnation. Reviews were mixed. Elyce was pleased and excited to see it. Gavin was another story. He was not impressed by the dudes in the tights. He couldn't wait to get back home to play on his computer - which was clearly evident during the show as he squirmed in his seat and was abhorently shocked to learn that the intermission was, in fact, meant not the end of the performance but simply a mid-performance break.

Elyce on the way to the Nutcracker

Anyway - the holidays always come so quickly! I feel like I never have time to put this page together the way I envision - let alone shop or sometimes just to appreciate the holiday. We are very grateful for the family and friends we have, and hope you have a great holiday this year.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Dave, Tina, Elyce, and Gavin