Year In Review : 2017 (UPDATED)

(I’ve updated this entry with end-of-the-year weather summary information.)

Happy 2017!
We maintained our senses of humor during this very emotional year.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Leaving The Hospital
MRB, just after we checked RLF out of a hospital in Temple, Texas. She was hospitalized in late September for pneumonia.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Top Stories

The biggest stories of 2017 for our family:

• April: new job, new car, new dishwasher, storm damage

• RLF was diagnosed with pneumonia in September

• Benjamin

Benjamin finally passed one meter in height, and finished the year at 16 kilograms (about 36 pounds). He now can reach all our light switches.

He wanted to go to school so bad he agreed to “homeschool” (I consider this part of my fatherhood job anyway) and began practicing writing letters and numerals. By the end of the year he was able to print legibly. He can verbally spell a dozen words and read them in books. He likes to make “books” out of hand-drawn, hand-written notebook pages stapled together.

In January
BWF climbs exercise equipment at Killeen’s Community Center Park
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

In February, when the local Kmart went out of business and marked everything down, we acquired several off-brand imitation Lego sets. Both children enjoyed the sets, but by year’s end Benjamin was an expert: playing with them daily, building houses, ships, spacecraft, robots, cars, and more — things I couldn’t have built at his age.

He got sick in September along with his sister, but he recovered after only a few days of high fever.

After months of saying he wanted to be “Batman” when he grows up, late in the year he changed it to “Darth Vader”. In December, he shouted out in a crowded restaurant: “When I grow up, I want to be a GUN!”

His behavior leaves something to be desired, but it’s quite obvious he’s channeling his father from 1977 or so. When I ask him “Why did you do that?” after any particularly destructive episode, his answer is usually: “My brain said to do it.”

Otherwise, he’s a reflective, empathetic, life-loving four-year-old. Unlike his sister at this age, he hasn’t yet learned fear. He loves to climb, build, destroy, sing, shout, learn, and fight. He craves approval from his big sister more than she will ever understand.

In December
BWF reflects on his short life, crouching near a pond in Harker Heights, Texas
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

A Very Benjamin 2017
One photo from each month of 2017, along with a portrait of Benjamin with me.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

In January
RLF plays with her Shopkins — a set of toys she was in love with for just over a year. In December, she gave all of them to her brother.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Rebecca

Rebecca finally crested four feet in height and gained a couple of pounds. She lost a couple more baby teeth — both while at school — and continued growing her permanent teeth. She finished kindergarten at Saegert Elementary School with much celebration and then (after rezoning) began first grade at a brand new school: Alice W. Douse Elementary. She continues to earn excellent marks in both behavior and academics.

Some time in Autumn, we switched her from “bus rider” to “car rider”. There were multiple reasons — different for morning than for afternoon. It has added time to our day.

Months of practice led to a big dance recital in June. It was one of the big moments in her life.

Her sickness in September began as a mystery; a cough and fever that came and went for a week or more. Eventually, it was diagnosed as pneumonia, which required a hospital stay in Temple, Texas — about a mile from the hospital where she was born (visible from the window of her room). My wife stayed with her except for a brief hour when I relieved her — she rushed home for a shower and medicine of her own (sinus infection).

Rebecca switched her career aspiration from “mermaid” to teacher or doctor. She consistently maintained her desire to be child-free when she grows up. Late in 2017 she announced that she doesn’t want to get married either. My wife and I will support her fully no matter what she actually does in these areas.

She learned to her dismay that there has never been a woman U.S. president, and that women weren’t always allowed to vote or own property. She has read biographies of Malala Yousafzai, Serena Williams, Mae Jemison, Barack Obama, and other historical figures — including Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and John F. Kennedy. When she learned on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that black people weren’t always afforded the same legal protections as white people in our country, my heart sank as I watched her expressions — I could see her mind connecting the dots.

In December
Rebecca and I pose for a portrait in December.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

A Very Rebecca 2017
One photo from each month in 2017, arranged around a perfectly representative photo of Rebecca. She is smart, inquisitive, thoughtful, emotional, artistic, funny, and helpful.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Our Family

My wife and I celebrated 11 years of marriage with a dinner at Outback Steakhouse (RnB came too). I can’t gauge my effect on her life, but I know that she’s been the cause of much good in me. Twice this year, a friend watched the kids so M and I could go out.

The Four Of Us
Our family during an outing at Inks Lake State Park in March.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

As usual, we used a bunch of our income tax refund in February to pay down the mortgage principal. And some paid for our summer vacation. I used a chunk to buy some survival gear, creating a “bail-out bag” for emergencies.

April was very full. Not only did my wife start her new job, but the house suffered interior water damage during a one-day, five-inch rainfall. We also bought a new car that month, and as we were car-shopping our dishwasher conked out so I bought an installed a new one.

M likes the new Monday-thru-Friday work schedule — and having weekends/holidays off like “normal” people. Her “raise” resulted in lower take-home pay, so we tightened up the budget to fit. Her work environment is more professional and predictable than before, and it’s been good for her.

(For me, it meant more days — and more consecutive days at home with the children each week, to which I eventually adjusted. And I’ve set up a schedule that differs from day-to-day but repeats each week, which helps Benjamin mark time and have things to look forward to.)

Ready To Swim
Our summer wasn’t particularly hot this year, but we did manage to swim a few times. This is me with the children in our neighborhood’s pool in August.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

We went all year without cable TV, which was good for us. An antenna picks up the local PBS affiliate for the kids. Otherwise we watch DVDs or Netflix. Not seeing advertisements for a whole year has improved our brains.

• Trips

Our only overnight trip this year was to Galveston for our third-annual jaunt.

At The USS Stewart
The four of us pose in front of a destroyer at Seawolf Park in Galveston. It’s the third year in a row we’ve visited this park and toured the ships there. Well worth it, especially if you have children.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

My wife took two overnight trips alone this year, both to Florida. The first was for a family funeral — and it was her first-ever time spending the night somewhere without her children (not counting Rebecca’s 26 days in NICU in 2010). Both children seemed lost without her at first, but we survived. So when M returned to Florida later in the year, for a work-related training, it felt like old habit for us.

And two hours before I clicked “publish” on this entry, my wife and the children left for a two-day jaunt to Odessa, where my wife has cousins. They will return on New Year’s Day.

Otherwise, our only travels were short-range:

* day trip to Inks Lake State Park in March
* several times to the Austin area to see my wife’s cousin and his family
* thrice northward to Watauga to see my brother and his family (March, June, and November).
* 7th annual autumn visit to Sweet Berry Farm

At Inks Lake
RnB pose on a boulder at Inks Lake State Park in March. We’d intended to visit Enchanted Rock, but it was so overcrowded that staff closed the gates. Almost no one was at Inks Lake. It was a wonderful day.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Visits

We didn’t do much hosting this year. We had my wife’s cousin and his family over for Rebecca’s birthday party in October.

Roof Repair
The first MAJOR repair in the seven-year life of our house was replacing roof vents. After unexplained heavy leaks earlier in the year, we managed to get a check from the insurance company that barely covered the replacement of the vents (but did not cover interior damage, which I have been working to repair on my own). The original vents were thin and plastic, and had cracked from exposure to the powerful Texas sun. The new ones are sturdy and metal and guaranteed for the life of the home.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Our Home, Neighborhood, and City

The big story with our house this year was replacing roof vents and repairing water damage indoors. I also replaced the dishwasher, installing a new one myself — at about the same time as the water damage and my wife’s switch to a new job. A few days before the end of the year, our TV quit and we replaced it. The old TV had lasted more than 5.5 years. The new one was a Toshiba like the old one, and just a couple of inches larger. It was 3/8 the price of the old one.

For the second year in a row, I didn’t water the lawn. It survived due to intermittent rainfall. With an overly warm autumn, I was still mowing green Bermuda grass into November (a first for me).

By the end of the year, our remaining mortgage principle was down to 25.4% of the original amount, on track to be paid off within the next three years — faster than we’d originally planned.

Our neighborhood continues to grow to the south, but Phase 1 (our part) is nearly complete. Only two houses (very near completion) and then we’ll never have to drive past house construction again.

Earlier this year, the primary highway through Killeen (US190) was renamed Interstate 14, after years of lobbying for such a change. Signs began going up by autumn.

Electric Bills
Three years of electric bills, with Decembers in white. (Red line is for usage and dark gray line is for rate.) This year saw our lowest-ever spring bills, due to a warm ending to winter, and then our lowest-ever December bill, due to a warm beginning to this winter.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Our Cars

The big car news this year was the addition of our 2016 Kia Soul. We bought it brand new (a first for both M and I), about the same time as M’s job switch, the dishwasher replacement, and the roof leaks. It’s the fifth car that M and I have bought together.

The Soul is small but comfy, parks easily, gets about 30 miles per gallon (doesn’t vary much between city and highway driving), and is now M’s daily commuter car. The Red Lobster (’03 Dodge Neon) has been passed down to me; I use it for any drives I make alone. The minivan is still going strong.

Politically Active
This is a self-portrait I made with my phone at the Rally Against White Supremacy in Austin, Texas, in August. Though I have been politically aware for several years, 2017 was the year I became politically active.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Personal

As always, the bulk of my time and energy is spent keeping house and raising children, I continued to devote time to my blogs, social media, writing poems, and making photos.

I maintained my promise (from 2016) to exclude from my life any friends or family members who have set themselves up as enemies of basic human decency. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry continue to be severely unwelcome. Whether it was racist/sexist “jokes” or run-of-the-mill political racism, I refuse to be party to it. “Politics” does not exist separately from real life. Your attitudes (and votes) continue to affect real people — including those I love most.

For the first time ever, I attended political events. In April, I attended the March For Science in Austin. In August, I returned to Austin for the Rally Against White Supremacy. Also in August, I went to a meet-and-greet event in Killeen for Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Beto O’Rourke. I maintained a subscription to a major national newspaper and devoted all our charitable giving to the ACLU.

For more on how 2017 politics changed me, see this entry on my other blog.

Can You Hear Me Now?
One of very few photo projects I attempted this year was my A Contemplation Of Cassette Tapes, which I undertook as I was cleaning out hundreds of old cassette tapes from my life.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

• Photography

Most of my photos this year were made with my Motorola Droid Turbo phone, though I continue to use and enjoy my Canon 60D. My overall number of photos dropped. I made fewer photos of my children and fewer photos of anything else, than I have since moving to Texas. For the first time in many years, I do not feel that I progressed as a photographer. And I regularly felt this as I occasionally glanced at my photo gear.

But I still managed to make family portraits and get regular photos of each child. And my “keeper” rate rose dramatically, for two reasons: (1) I rarely make a photo now unless I’m certain I can get a good one, and (2) more of the ones I make are good ones.

Both children continued used their devices to make photographs. I think they’re getting better. Rebecca uses my old Canon EOS 350D (Rebel XT) and her Kurio 7S tablet. Benjamin uses his sister’s old Vivitar ViviCam F128 and his mother’s old Droid Turbo smartphone. Both record selfies, videos, and images of what they find interesting in their lives. I almost never instruct them or try to limit their photography in any way. I do, however, delete most of their output, in the interest of common sense.

7.7 Million Views
Flickr’s statistics engine says I’ve accumulated 7.7 million overall views on my photos in the past 12 years — I joined in September 2005 and went “pro” the next month. If you’ve forgotten my Flickr URL, it’s here. Non-members can see many of my photos, but if you’re a Flickr member, I can add you as a “friend” or “family” to see the rest.

Mid-Year Portrait
In June, I made this casual family portrait
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

• Weather

Eight years of HLAs. The “HLA” is a term of my invention, and stands for “high-low average”. Each day, I average the high and low temperature for the day, and then average those for the monthly and yearly HLAs.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry.)

Locally, 2017 was our 2nd warmest year — (behind 2012, the warmest in recorded history), with a yearly HLA of 71.56°F. Rainfall was above my average, with 32.38 inches for the year (slightly below the official average).

We set 22 record daily highs this year, averaging 1.83 per month. Only one daily record low was set (Jan. 7).

We saw the longest-ever span between the last freezing day of one winter and the first freezing day of the next: 335 days (29 days longer than the span in 2016). The span from our first 90-degree day to our last 90-degree day was also the longest, at 253 days (also beating 2016). [See graph below for a visual representation of this.]

Notable weather stats: 2017 was the second year in which July’s HLA was higher than August’s. February and April each set high marks for monthly rainfall. Three months (February, March, and November) were the warmest ever. Three months (August through October) were the coldest of the past eight years (but not the coldest of all time).

January saw our coldest temperature of the year (16°F), but at 54.89°F HLA, it was the second-warmest January on record. December was our coldest month of the year at 51.21°F, but was close to average for December (and saw a record-low number of freezing days).

Our number of 100-degree days was the lowest of the past eight years, 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 also the fewest since we moved here — only 7 (we average about 20).

When we began the year with four straight months warmer than average — and two of them the warmest of all time — I began to suspect that we’d surpass 2012 as the warmest year on record. But the weather was mild through late summer and early autumn. In the end, we barely beat 2016 for second place.

This graphic shows the occurrences of freezing days (blue), 90-degree days (orange), and 100-degree days (red) for each year.
(Copyright © 2017 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

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

2016: Year In Review: 2016
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. Overall, it sounds like a full, great year.

    Like you, I became more vocally political this year… Mostly online. I’m embarrassed for our country and angry at the Republicans all around me. Most of them act like “good people” most of the time, but then they’ll vote for a cartoon villain with a straight face.

    And that Kia Soul sounds like a good car. I know they don’t cost much too, which is a big bonus. When mine craps out, I might take a look at one.

  2. Dana says:

    I’ve been waiting all year for this. ;-P

    I think it’s fair to say that on the whole, 2017 was not a bad year for the Frys. Here’s hoping that 2018 is a banner year for you and your family.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      It wasn’t horrible. :-) If you subtract the pneumonia, roof leak, and failed dishwasher (and the temporary president), this might have been our best year yet. :-)

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