Looking back on 2012, we have a lot of great memories. We've included some photos below - click on them to get a bigger view.
Last Christmas, my family decided to get together in a rental cabin in the Tennessee mountains. While there Don got to see both of his siblings (sitting on the sofa in the first photo). We enjoyed that so much that we are going back to the same area this year.
Sarah and Rachel have great friends. They've known Joanna for a long time and both enjoyed her horse riding birthday party. The 4th photo is their American Heritage troop outing to an organic farm in South Florida, where they learned some things about our food supply.
We decided to venture into family camping this year and went on four camping trips: Markham Park, Lion Country Safari (where you really do hear the lions at night), Big Pine Key, and the state-wide American Heritage Girls camp at Umatilla, details below. There's no family time like camping time. We got a little rain water in the tent the first trip, a LOT in the 3rd trip, and the 4th trip, hurricane Sandy blew down our tent. But we got to enjoy many other positive experiences that we'd never done before.
Sarah and Rachel are more active in more groups this year, including character classes, piano lessons, art classes, vacation bible school, Harvest Festival, Operation Christmas child. Our girls were introduced to K'nex last Christmas, and each of them built a project: a roller coaster and a ferris wheel. March brought the celebration of Rachel's ninth birthday (halfway to 18). She wanted a race party, which was sort of a mashup of relay races with a monster truck cake.
We took a Spring trip to Disney and enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. Our girls love the speedway at Magic Kingdom, but I'm not sure why they drive with their eyes closed. ;-)
We got a unique opportunity to spend the night at the Kennedy Space Center with the girls' troop. We "camped out" under the enormous Saturn V rocket. You can see Sarah sitting on her inflatable bed under the rocket in the 3rd photo.
In April, we made a road trip up to Furman University for the retirement celebration of one of Don's professors, Hayden Porter. It was a very enjoyable trip, and Don got to meet some alumni that he had only heard legends of before. While there, we got to spend some times with Hugh and Trish Knight, good friends for decades.
The next trip was a camping trip to Lion Country Safari. This was a pleasant camping trip, and we all got to go on our first ever camel ride. They have a high platform there where you can feed giraffes, which was also a first for all of us.
May brought Sarah's 10th birthday, so we now officially have a "tween" in the family. The girls finished another year of piano lessons with Miss Jane. Sarah won an honorable mention award in a national competition for her composition of the song Chewy, which is about the chiuaua next door.
May also brought Don's 50th, and Barbara arranged a surprise visit of a bunch of friends old and new. Sarah and Rachel graduated from the 3rd grade and had a fun celebration with their classmates.
In July, we went on a Florida West Coast vacation. We went shelling at the world famous Sanibel Island. Sarah discovered a live penshell on the bottom, and we played with it for a while and then released it. We rented a Hobie Cat and got a little sailing time in, which is always good for the soul.
From Sanibel, we continued on up to Fort Meyers and visited the the Ford and Edison estates. We loved seeing the lab where the light bulb was invented, as well as the museum of the dawn of the electric age. We also visited the palatial House of John at the Ringling estate, the circus museum, and the fine art museum at Sarasota. Then we continued on to Clearwater and visited Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail that starred in the movie Dolphin Tale.
Barbara and the girls had another overnight trip to the science museum (wasn't there a movie about that?) in Fort Lauderdale. They got to do some special experiments and hang out with their troop.
One of our friends from church, Marvin Peacock, a marine who served in both the Korea and Vietnam wars, passed away this year. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and we made the trip for his funeral. It was a very moving and impressive service, complete with band, 21-gun salute, horse-drawn caisson, and about 100 marines gathered to honor Marvin. While we were in DC, we toured the cemetery, the postal museum, Theodore Roosevelt memorial, and the National Archives, where we got to see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
Barbara and the girls had another educational outing to visit the Morikami museum in Delray Beach. We started a new program for homeschool this year called Classical Conversations. The girls meet in a classroom setting once a week and study a classical curriculum. You can name the six Latin noun first declensions, can't you? :-) They also get to do some science experiments, like the dissection in the 3rd photo.
In October, during hurricane Sandy, we went camping in Umatilla, FL. After the winds demolished our tent, we got a hotel room. The Elks campground and Umatilla is very nice. They have a ropes course challenge, on which Rachel had no trouble making it to the top. The canoeing was more Sarah's speed. The girls worked on some of their badges, tie-dyed shirts, and of course roasted marshmallows.
In other news, Don has been working for his own software company, solving various technology problems for companies. He is also part of a start-up venture that simplifies and automates the process of binding arbitration. It shows a lot of promise, since there is a big need for a better process in this area. It's all at arbresolutions.com.
Barbara continues to home-school our girls, who started in the 4th grade this year. We started school in July so we could free up time for larger breaks in the fall.
In December, the American Heritage troop marched in a parade and the girls got to dress up and have a good time. Several of the moms got together and planned a special surprise trip the the American Girl store that just opened in Miami. (The next closest store is in Atlanta.) They had a fantasy of a time dolling up their dolls.