Year In Review: 2016

In 2016, RnB became fast friends and partners in crime
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

RLF, on her first day of school
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Top Stories

In the story of our family, two events dominated 2016, both of them positive. The first was our trip to Portland, Oregon in early August, which produced memories that will last a lifetime.

The second was just a couple of weeks later: Rebecca started kindergarten — her longest stretches of time without M and I (since NICU, anyway). In the few months since she began, she quickly learned to read and write, and now can’t remember not being able to do either. She’s made dozens of new friends and has a completely different understanding of the outside world.

◊ Benjamin

A few more milestones passed for Benjamin this year. In February, he jumped for the first time. It took several months, but we finally got him potty-trained. He turned three years old this year, grew past the three-foot mark, weighs over 30 pounds, and finally grew all 20 baby teeth. He began forming sentences regularly in January, and by the end of the year he could tell relatively complex stories.

BWF in January
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

In February, he broke out in body-covering hives, apparently due to an allergic reaction, but we never found out what it was. He cleared up after five days, two doctor visits, and a lot of medicine, calamine lotion, and oatmeal baths. In December, he had croup and an ear infection at the same time, but overcame it like a champ.

Along with his sister and mother, he saw and touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time in August (trip to Oregon), while adding two states to his “visited” list. He went bowling for the first time this year. He (finally) falls asleep at night without having a parent stay with him.

He can identify all the letters in the alphabet (and knows what sounds they make), the numerals 0-9 (and can count to 10), several printed words, and all the basic shapes.

Near the end of the year, he suddenly developed a shyness around adults, especially women. He says he wants to be Batman or Doctor Who (maybe both) when he grows up. His favorite toys are superhero action figures and anything related to Star Wars.

BWF in December
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

A photo of BWF from each month of 2016
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

RLF, on a 76°F January day
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

◊ Rebecca

The biggest milestone, by far, for RLF this year was starting school. Since exiting NICU at 26 days old, she’s never been away from home without her parents — never a babysitter, never daycare, no preschool, nothing. So this was a huge change for her, as well as for me and Benjamin. I think I had prepared her well by teaching her the alphabet, her numbers, and the basic shapes, as well as quizzing her on some basic word spellings over the previous few months.

My wife was first in line on enrollment day (the morning we left for Portland), and all of us attended a meet-and-greet a few days before school began. On the first day of school, we drove Rebecca and dropped her off, but most days she rides the bus with her friends — we walk her to the bus stop each morning and wait for her there each afternoon. Her teacher is a gem, and the school seems very proactive and coordinated. We are impressed so far.

Rebecca has done well at school, getting excellent marks for both behavior and proficiency. She has learned to read and write, the basics of mathematics, and even some social studies. The change in lifestyle was HUGE for her, but she doesn’t seem to have noticed. She’s made new friends and is obviously more grown up than the girl I knew a few months ago.

Earlier in the summer, she had a dance recital (both ballet and tap), the end product of a year of practice. (Today, that memory almost seems lost behind the vacations and starting school.)

I’m very proud of her.

In January, the dentist said RL’s two front teeth were growing inside her gums and would probably show up before year’s end — and they both did. She lost a few more teeth (naturally) through the year, and began growing other adult teeth as well.

By year’s end, she was nearly four feet tall, over 40 pounds, and ready to begin the eighth calendar year of her life. Most of the year, she said she wanted to be a social worker (“like Mommy”) when she grows up, but late in the game, she changed it to teacher.

RnB in December
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

A photo of RLF from each month of the year, surrounding one that feels quintessentially Rebecca to me
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ Our Family

We played (and didn’t win) the largest PowerBall drawing in history, in January. But in February, we got our usual refund amount, most of which went to our mortgage principal, but some of which was saved for the summer trip to Portland.

The four of us, overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Ecola State Park, Oregon

While my wife’s schedule didn’t change, everyone else’s did — due to Rebecca starting school. Since late August, I have a couple of days with both kids, and two days with just Benjamin, and then there are three days when my wife’s home with just me and Benjamin. Since my wife works weekends, it means the only times she’s home with Rebecca are evenings and holidays. She’s starting to look forward to switching to a “regular” schedule.

My wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this year, without much fanfare, but with a growing sense of closeness and accomplishment.

In addition to our other adventures, we also visited our neighborhood pool every chance we got
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

In early October, we finally canceled our cable TV subscription, saving nearly $100 per month.

◊ Trips

As already mentioned, our biggest trip of the year was the one to Portland. It strained our budget a bit, but I think it was worth it. Despite the overshadowing greatness of that vacation, our trip to Galveston was a fun time as well.

A nearly 180-degree panorama of the beach in Galveston
(View it larger)
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Feb. 6 — Day trip to Austin, Texas (Carmelite’s birthday party)
• March 2 — Day trip to Cameron Park Zoo (Waco)
• April 14 — Day trip to Austin, Texas (playdate)
• April 14 — Solo trip to Colorado Bend State Park (San Saba County)
• April 19 — Day trip to Austin
• May 2-4 — Visited my parents (Seminole County, Okla.)
• May 9 — Solo trip to Austin (see my photos)
• June 12-16 — Galvestion Vacation
• July 3 — Day trip to Pflugerville (visit M’s family)
• Aug. 2-9 — Portland Vacation
• Aug. 20 — Day trip to Pflugerville (cousin’s birthday)
• Sept. 10 — Day trip to Watauga (Violet’s 1st birthday)
• Oct. 10 — Day trip to Sweet Berry Farm (our 6th annual visit)
• Nov. 11 — Day trip to Ft. Worth (visit brother and family)
• Nov. 22 — Solo trip to Inks Lake State Park (see my photos)
• Dec. 24 — Day trip to Pflugerville (Xmas with M’s family)

RnB alongside the Saturn V, which took men to the Moon in the late 1960s and early ’70s, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ Visits

We didn’t do much hosting this year. Twice (April and May), we hosted friends from M’s church for supper (and they hosted us two or three times as well). Those same friends, M’s cousin and family, and others showed up for BWF’s birthday. And my brother and his family visited us for two days in October.

Outtakes from a group portrait attempt while hosting friends for supper
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

With the addition of a comfortable chair and lamp, we finally have a reading nook in the corner of our master bedroom
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

◊ Our Home, Neighborhood, and City

Upgraded internet connection — Jan. 1
Took down the crib for the last time — Jan. 5
New cable box & modem — Jan. 6
Turned changing table into camera gear storage — Jan. 20
Completed reading nook — Feb. 17
Lawn perfected without watering due to plentiful rainfall
Added light-blocking curtain to master bathroom — June 23
• Mysterious roof leak — Aug. 15
Replaced exhaust fan in master bathroom — Sept. 14
New mattress in master bedroom — Oct. 6
• Replaced screen on garage vent — December

By the end of the year, our remaining mortgage principle was down to 37.3% of what we originally borrowed (33.8% of the sale price of our home), on track to be paid off within the next four years.

Our neighborhood continues to expand, though now all the streets are finally paved. Yowell Ranch measures more than a mile from its northern tip to its southern tip, and more than half a mile wide at the widest point, with nearly a thousand homes already completed. (Ours was the 17th home completed in the neighborhood, back in 2010.) In 2016, developers added a second walking trail, two more ponds, a fenced dog park, and a splash pad.

Nearby, a brand new elementary school is under construction to handle the ongoing influx of new families into Killeen’s school district. Our children will almost certainly attend the new school (rezoning isn’t 100% completed yet).

The city of Killeen came up many millions short on its budget this year, prompting cuts across the board and requiring some accounting voodoo to set the books straight. But the city continues to grow, passing 140,000 residents this year (not including Fort Hood or the surrounding metropolitan area). The US190 highway project finally completed this year, including the new Rosewood access point — which we were happy to see. The primary road in front our neighborhood — Stagecoach Road — was also finished this year; it’s now five lanes with curbs and sidewalks from end to end, and a pleasure to drive.

The past 37 electric bills show that this year’s spring, summer, and fall were easy on the budget
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ Our Cars

We ended 2015 with expensive car trouble for the Dodge and Mercury, and started 2016 with a failed battery in the Kia. Fortunately, gas prices dropped lower about that same time ($1.399 per gallon in January, $1.269 in February), which saved us quite a bit of money. February began with the Mercury failing inspection; fortunately the repair for that was minor.

But not long after, the Mercury Sable broke down again. Neither my wife nor I were willing to drop any more money on it. We let it sit in front of the house for most of the year, and then sold it in November, to the father-in-law of a former neighbor, thus ending a nine-year chapter of our lives.

My then-five-year-old daughter made this photo of me in July
(Copyright © 2016 by Rebecca L. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ Personal

While devoting most of my time and energy to running our household and raising children, I did find time to blog on various topics, write a few poems, and continue my photography.

I also made some deeply personal decisions this year, including my decision to cut off contact with a few friends (and even family members) over their regressive political stances. I can no longer be convinced that “politics” somehow exists separately from real life. Your votes actually do affect the lives of real people, and sometimes those people are me and those I love.

On a lighter note, I made some new friends, and reconnected with a few old ones through the magic of the internet. I’m still not very good at friendships, but I promise to try.

Also this year, I went to a shooting range for the first time in my life, performing fairly well.

◊ Photography

One of many beautiful images made with the Samsung phone before it died
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

My photography was, for most of the year, dominated by my increasing dependence on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which was amazing until it mysteriously stopped working in late August. My next phone, the Motorola Droid Turbo, was not quite as adept at photography, though I eventually learned its limitations and made good use of it.

Near the end of the year, I bought a black cotton backdrop and put it to good use almost immediately, hanging it from a DIY background holder that I made for less than $10.

Rebecca continued to use her camera, and both children used the cameras built into their tablets, occasionally coming up with something worth looking at (I’m way behind on uploading their images, however).

Family portrait, Dec. 22
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ Weather

Spans of 90°F (orange) and 100°F (red) days for each of the past seven years
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry.)

Locally, 2016 was our second warmest year since moving here (behind 2012, which was the warmest in recorded history), with a yearly HLA of 71.17°F. It was also the second rainiest year since we moved here (behind 2015), with 36.86”, but had the most (115) days with observed precipitation.

Sixteen separate days broke record highs; none broke record lows. This is highly unusual. We also saw the longest span between the last freezing day of last winter and the first freezing day of this winter: 306 days (two days longer than the span in 2012). The span from our first 90-degree day to our last 90-degree day was also the longest, at 220 days (also beating 2012).

Notable weather stats: 2016 was the first year in which July’s HLA was higher than August’s, and was also the first year in which August was the rainiest month of the year (it’s usually the driest). Eight months were rainier than average, with April and August being the rainiest ever. Eight months were warmer than average, and three (February, October, and November) were the warmest ever. Two months (May and August) were the coldest of the past seven years (but not the coldest of all time).

Despite December seeing the coldest temperature of the year and the coldest day (HLA), January was cooler overall. Both were slightly warmer than their averages.

Our number of 100-degree days was significantly lower than average, as was our number of 90-degree days, despite both spans being longer than average. The number of days that hit 32°F or cooler was well below average as well — only 14 (we average over 20).

Seven years of local HLAs, showing the familiar stair-step increases
(Copyright © 2016 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

◊ See Previous “Year in Review” Entries On My Blog

2015: Year In Review: 2015
2014: Year In Review: 2014
2013: Year In Review: 2013
2012: Year In Review: 2012
2011: Year in Review: 2011
2010: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
2009: 2009 In Review
2008: Year in Review: 2008
2007: (no entry)
2006: (no entry)
2005: Marline’s Visit, Pt. 5 (scroll down for “Overall 2005”)
2004: (no entry)
2003: 2003: A Non-Nostalgic Remembrance
2002: Of the Year 2002
2001: (no entry)
2000: The Last Year Of The Millennium (2000)

  1. Marline says:

    Good job hun. You captured the essence of our year in review 2016. Maybe next year we should try to revamp the old holiday newsletter. Or not…Anyhoo, kudos on getting this done.

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